Mayor R.T. Rybak and 5th Ward City Councilmember Don Samuels recently provided a State of the Empowerment Zone report to Minneapolis residents and development stakeholders.
Supporting a presentation by Empowerment Zone Executive Director, Jonathan Palmer, Rybak reiterated comments he made following his recent reelection victory. He said North Minneapolis’s economic and community development now stands as the city’s top development priority. He urged area civic, community and business leaders to look beyond the reality of the diminished federal funding for the Empowerment Zone initiative and collaborate to find innovative responses to the needs, challenges, and tremendous opportunity surrounding the reemergence of North Minneapolis, energized by a flourishing West Broadway, as a vital, vibrant, and sustainable economic force in the city. Rybak reviewed the original vision of the Empowerment Zone idea and intended funding streams. He said the program sought and expected a $100 million investment. Minneapolis, he said, was one of 15 cities nationwide selected to receive up to $100 million each.
The program was conceived and executed under the last Clinton Administration, and, Rybak said, was one of the early cutback targets of the Bush Administration when Republicans took control of the federal government. What finally came down the pike to each of the 15 Empowerment Zone cities was $27 million each, not the $100 million call for in the original plans.
In Minneapolis, the Empowerment Zone consists of Near North, Hawthorne, Jordan, Harrison, the industrial areas along the Mississippi including Phillips, Powderhorn and Central neighborhoods and parts of the Franklin and Lake Street commercial corridors, in addition to the industrial space known as SEMI (Southeast Minneapolis Industrial Park).
Palmer said the mission of the Minneapolis Empowerment Zone is to create healthy and sustainable communities through economic development strategies and service links in the most economically distressed areas of Minneapolis.”
“The program will work to connect people, places and businesses to stimulate the creation of new jobs by empowering low-income persons and families receiving public assistance to become economically self-sufficient and to promote revitalization,” he said.
Federal funds for the creation of the Empowerment Zone strategy was based on dire statistical profiles of Near North Minneapolis and the Central, Powderhorn and Phillips neighborhoods. The initiative was developed as a part of a wide array of approaches to reducing pervasive poverty and unemployment, below average or declining per capita income earnings per worker, numbers of persons on welfare, per capita property tax base, average years of school completed, substantial population decline, and a high or rising incidence of crime, narcotics use, homelessness, high incidence of AIDS, abandoned housing, deteriorated infrastructure, school dropouts, teen pregnancy, incidence of domestic violence, incidence of certain health conditions and illiteracy, he said.
Palmer said currently the Empowerment Zone initiative wants to build on the idea reflected in the project theme: “Minneapolis-the City that works by working together.”
He said the program focuses on creating partnership between EZ neighborhoods, businesses, non-profit organizations, state, county, local governments, faith-based organizations, the education community, foundation community, and others.
Palmer said the five goals of the Minneapolis Empowerment Zone are:
ß Economic development based on living wage jobs and community sustainability.
ß Increased housing options that foster family and community stability.
ß Neighborhood-based safety strategies that help residents combat drug-related activity, reduce juvenile crime and create safer neighborhoods.
ß A comprehensive education system-childhood through adulthood-that prepares all Minneapolis learners for participation in the economic and social fabric of the community.
ß Coordinated community-based services that nurture and support young people and their families.
Going forward, Palmer said, the program will make grants for economic development, housing, safety, education projects with a focus on small projects. The Empowerment Zone will continue support for signature projects like Heritage Park and Sears/Midtown Exchange.
Rybak announced the reallocation of SEMI funding ($1M) to North Side Economic Development Initiative and said there will be a greater use of pooled, competitive Requests for Proposals.
Palmer described in detail how Empowerment Zones have been allocated to date:
By Focus Area
ß Economic Development ($10.4M; 41%)
ß Housing ($10.3M; 41%)
ß Community Services: Crime/Safety, Education ($4.6M; 18%)
ß Northside focused ($10M; 40 %)
ß Southside focused ($9.8M; 39 %)
ß EZ-Wide focused ($4.2M); 21%)
By Race/Culture (Primary & Substantial Focus & Participants. See attachment A)
ß African American ($8.44M; 35%)
ß Latino/Hispanic ($1.66M; 7%)
ß Asian/Pacific Islander ($195,000; 1%)
ß Native American ($2M; 8%)
ß Majority Focus on Communities of Color ($8M; 33%)
ß Total funding in Communities of Color ($20.4M; 84%)
ß EZ-Wide or Broader Community ($3.9M; 16%)
ß Sears & Heritage Park ($7.8M; 31%)
ß Other Major Physical Redevelopment Projects ($2.5M; 10%)
ß Small Business Loans ($1.57M; 6%)
ß Other Community Programs ($13.5M; 53%)
ß $2.03 M in Remaining Unallocated Funds
ß Other Existing Programs
ß Small Business Lending Partners Funds Being Revolved ($1.35M)
ß North Side Economic Development Initiative ($1M)
Palmer, Mayor Rybak, and Councilmember Don Samuels praised area residents and business leaders who have provided direction and support for the Empowerment Zone (EZ) initiative by serving on its board of directors. They included:
ß Theresa Carr, Executive Director, American Indian NDC
ß Augustine Dominguez, Community Organizer
ß Arlene El-Amin, EZ Resident Community Representative
ß Jason Geschwind, EZ Business Owner, Gesco Construction
ß Peter Heegaard, Retired Business Executive
ß Karen Kelley-Ariwoola, VP-Community Philanthropy, Mpls. Foundation
ß Craig Lewis, Pastor
ß Robert Lilligren, City of Minneapolis Council Member
ß Juan Linares, Community Organizer
ß Jan Morlock, Director of Community Relations, U of MN
ß David Nasby, Foundation Representative
ß Alicia Phillips, Minneapolis Heart Institute
ß Paul Rebholz, Commercial Lender, Wells Fargo Bank
ß Josephine Reed-Taylor, Associate Dean, MCTC
ß R.T. Rybak, Co-Chair, City of Minneapolis Mayor
ß Osman Sahardeed, EZ Resident Representative
ß Don Samuels, Co-Chair, City of Minneapolis Council Member
ß Keith Sjoquist, President, Sjoquist Architects
ß Mark Stenglein, Commissioner, Hennepin Cty. Board of Commissioners
ß Missy Thompson, Director, Fannie Mae MN Partnership
ß Xang Vang, Hmong American Mutual Association
ß Jeffrey Washburne, Exec. Director, City of Lakes Community Land Trust
ß Joe Werner, EZ Business Owner, Engineering Unlimited, Inc.
ß Paul Williams, Co-Chair, Executive Director, Twin Cities LISC
ß Joyce Wisdom, EZ Resident Representative
ß Vusumuzi Zulu, EZ Resident Representative