Last month the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association published its Strategic Plan. Working with Aurora Consulting they came up with a four part plan describing values and focuses for the next few years. They want to Facilitate Community Engagement; Foster Community Development; Embrace Leadership; and Stimulate Economic Development.
First, let’s all agree these are wonderful goals— GOALS, not strategies. Strategies would be ways to go about achieving those goals. They’re like the Boy Scout values of trustworthiness, loyalty, bravery, cleanliness and reverence; they’re so general, you’re not quite sure what they mean or how to go about achieving them.
Nevertheless, the value in this exercise by PPNA is that it perhaps showed the participants who they are and articulated why they joined PPNA and agreed to serve on the board. They joined PPNA because they wanted to practice Community Engagement; they wanted to participate in Community Development because they’re proud of their community; they were willing to Embrace the problems and responsibilities of Leadership; and they wanted to help Powderhorn be healthy and prosperous by Stimulating Economic Development.
With the deepening tragedy unfolding in the Nokomis East Neighborhood and the collapse of its neighborhood organization, this is the right moment to recognize what a great gift the dedication and hard work of the staff and citizen volunteers of PPNA is to all of us in South Minneapolis.
But, enough of that, let’s talk about strategy. Let’s be concrete. Let’s be specific.
What can we do to stimulate economic development? If we look at Lake Street in the Phillps/Powderhorn community, we see the two busiest intersections (and the most successful) are at Lake and Fifth Avenue and Lake and Bloomington. Twenty years ago, those were dead corners. Nothing happened there. Businesses went there to die.
What have been the great engines of their success and renewal? Both of those corners are anchored by mini-malls of local businesses: Basim Sabri’s massive complex of Somali and Latino shops on Fifth and the Mercado Central on Bloomington. Why can’t PPNA buy something like the Furniture Liquidator building on Chicago Avenue and turn it into a mini mall for Powderhorn and Central neighborhood small businesses?
Perhaps that’s not the best idea. People in Powderhorn should think about other ideas. What would be the best way to stimulate business in South Minneapolis? And let’s think about vacant buildings as assets rather than eyesores. And let’s think about ways we can help each other become more prosperous.
Paul Wellstone: “We all do better when we all do better.”
OK, enough about strategy, now what are our tactics? How are we going to make this happen?
The last public City Budget hearing is Dec. 10 beginning at 6:05 p.m. in Room 317, City Hall. Council Member Cam Gordon has been holding hearings in his committee to listen to community organizations propose ideas on spending Community Development funds that were supposed to be earmarked for neighborhood organizations but Hodges sent the money over to public relations in her proposed Budget. Certainly it wouldn’t do any harm to ask our Council Member Alondra Cano whether any neighborhood economic development funds would be available for Powderhorn.
The city has hopes for federal money from a Promise Zone—economic assistance to poor neighborhoods to stimulate business development. But that grant is exclusively targeted to North Minneapolis.
In reality, though, we don’t really need a city grant or a Promise Zone. If we could get a plan together that looked feasible, then we could ask our council members from South Minneapolis to host a meeting with staff from the City Coordinator’s Office to arrange a business loan through Industrial Revenue Bonds to finance the purchase of a building that PPNA would manage and, ultimately, use to finance the organization.
That’s not a handout. That’s a hand up. And that’s something that the city should be doing.
That’s something the city should be doing for every neighborhood in South Minneapolis. Every neighborhood should be thankful for its neighborhood organization and grateful for the time and energy our neighbors spend in making it run. And we should work with them and contribute ideas and energy.
Every neighborhood, every neighborhood organization should have big dreams, and it’s the responsibility of our elected officials to help make those dreams come true.