Recently, Governor Mark Dayton stood before 1,000 business leaders of the Minnesota Business Partnership to request that they join him in working to address alarming racial disparities in Minnesota. Said Governor Dayton, “We cannot afford to admire or ignore these problems any longer. It is time now to take action to improve the lives and economic futures of all Minnesotans.” Following that commitment, Governor Dayton announced that he will create a new Office of Career and Business Opportunity that will provide focus and leadership to help workers and businesses of color find jobs and opportunity in Minnesota. This is an important first step in the right direction.
If we are to address these glaring and persistent racial disparities, however, it will take cooperation and innovation from leaders in government, business, community, education, and the nonprofit sector. Everybody In stands in the “super connector” role for efforts to address the racial employment gap in the region. We have many efforts in place, including those initiated by the Governor to address our serious racial employment gap.
“While discussions about racial disparities in Minnesota are not new, recent reports have reignited debate and interest surrounding the causes of intolerable racial gaps in employment, income, education, housing, health, and criminal justice outcomes being experienced by Black and American Indian people, in particular,” said Professor Sam Grant, Executive Director, Everybody In. “It’s time to act with a greater sense of urgency in implementing new programs and strengthening policies that will be effective in addressing these disparities,” he went on to say.
According to Commissioner Toni Carter, “We know what works, but we must have buy-in from stakeholders willing to make changes in how we do business. For example, making strategic investments in the workforce system will help address racial disparities in employment. These funds will be used to help strengthen the skills of prospective employees, which will in turn benefit businesses looking to hire skilled workers and will allow families to get on a path towards upward mobility.”
Although Minnesotans as a whole enjoy a great degree of prosperity and often lead the nation in many key indicators of quality of life, this distinction does not generally hold true for African Americans in this state. A recent report by 24/7 Wall Street ranked the Twin Cities region as the third worst place for African Americans in the nation. Additionally, a report by the Census Bureau showed a significant decline in household income for African Americans over the last year.
“It is great to see that Governor Dayton is using his platform to speak to business leaders about the importance of tackling racial disparities head-on. The reality is that both the public and private sectors will need to double down on their efforts to address gaps in income and employment for people of color. Too often, people of color are not offered equal access to employment opportunities, equal pay, and promotions as their white counterparts. It is time to implement policies that focus on equity and inclusion and retention of people of color,” said Nekima Levy-Pounds, co-chair of Everybody In and President of the Minneapolis NAACP.
According to Dane Smith, President of Growth & Justice, “We now have a broader consensus than ever before that workforce equity is imperative for economic sustainability. We must also eliminate racial disparities in attainment of higher education while improving alignment between K-12 education and the workforce needs of the future. Workers must be given the skills to fill the thousands of jobs that will be left by baby boomers who retire from the workforce.”
Everybody In stands with Governor Dayton in calling for business and government leaders to work diligently to address racial disparities in our region. Together, we can make the Twin Cities an example for the nation, and move to first place among major metro areas in both workforce and business equity. The future of our region’s economy depends, literally, on progress here. The recent evidence of the robust performance and contribution of businesses of color to our regional economy since the 2008 recession testifies to the extreme importance of investing more broadly and strategically in the assets that are shaping Minnesota’s future, and prepare us to respond well to the major demographic shift in the region over the next 30 years.
About Everybody In
Everybody In is a transformative hub of 50 plus core partners with a collective mission of eliminating racial employment disparities in the Saint Paul/Minneapolis seven-county region by 2020. Everybody In was initiated through Ramsey County’s Board of Commissioners and Workforce Investment Board, City of Saint Paul and City of Minneapolis following a Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) report issued in 2012.