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‘Reinventing economic opportunity’ — State of the City: Minneapolis

In the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, in the middle of a neighborhood hit hard by unemployment and foreclosure, I found hope in an unlikely place: the Workforce Center at Chicago and Lake, where unemployed residents find c

Editor’s Note: The following is a text of Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s State of the City Address, delivered this morning at a new Coloplast facility in north Minneapolis.

In the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, in the middle of a neighborhood hit hard by unemployment and foreclosure, I found hope in an unlikely place: the Workforce Center at Chicago and Lake, where unemployed residents find counseling, training and contacts they need to get back into the job market.

These are tough times, and it’s sad to say the center, one of two the city helps fund, was full when I went earlier this month. We normally serve about 60,000 a year in these two centers, but so far this year our traffic is up 30 percent.

You would expect people who had lost their jobs to be pretty down these days as they are inundated with a barrage of bad news about an economy that isn’t likely to be creating a lot of new jobs soon. But the people I met who were gathered that day for the center’s training classes were anything but down.

“I come here to find people who are in the same boat,” one man told me. “We trade leads; we tell each other things other people wouldn’t.”

A woman from Edina told me, “I have to admit I never thought I was someone who could find help at Chicago and Lake, but this place saved my career.” She had lost her job last year, but was back to thank the people who helped her to get a new one that paid better.

Another woman said something that stuck with me: “This is where I came to reinvent my career.”

“Reinvent.” That’s a good word to use today as we think about our future. It’s better than “Recovery,” which seems to say all we need to do is go back to the past. The past — whether we like it or not — is over. The old ways of doing things have literally run out of gas. All over Minneapolis, and throughout this region, we need to not just recover, not just rebuild, we must reinvent. We must reinvent how we create opportunity; reinvent a new way of working; and reinvent our partnership between citizens, businesses, schools and government.

There is no better illustration of how we are reinventing ourselves than the building we are in today. Here on Minneapolis’ Upper Riverfront, where long time industrial jobs have gone away, on a block that had been dominated by a scrap yard, we are opening the doors for the new North American home of Coloplast. Denmark-based Coloplast is a global medical device leader. This $35 million North American headquarters campus will be LEED certified silver, will include one of the company’s three global Innovation Centers and will house approximately 500 employees in sales, marketing, research and development.

Coloplast is reinventing the Upper River and the surrounding neighborhoods of north Minneapolis. In the process, we are showing once again that Minneapolis always has been and will continue to be a city of opportunity.

We will be a city of opportunity because we are reinventing ourselves for the new economy: a new economy where highly mobile workers and companies choose Minneapolis as the place to find access to a trained and educated workforce, produce green and sustainable products in an economy that is homegrown and local, that has global reach and that thrives in spite of and, in some cases, because of the tough times we are in today.

Our Opportunity Agenda invests in people, our greatest asset. We don’t worry about jobs and opportunities passing us by because our workforce has the education and training to compete for tomorrow’s jobs today.

Our agenda builds on our own assets. We don’t spend all our time trying to attract jobs from elsewhere because we can grow them here at home.

Our agenda confidently takes a more global Minneapolis into the international marketplace, knowing a global economy has a world of opportunity.

Our agenda sees the entire region as an incubator of opportunity, and builds a city that brings people and ideas together.

Our agenda is also exceptionally well suited to be a partner with a new, more activist administration in Washington whose recovery investment will help us reinvent the Minneapolis economy.

Job #1: Invest in People
The heart of our economic reinvention plan begins with people. We start with people because if you have a talented workforce where people are trained and ready, innovation flourishes and companies can grow. The City of Minneapolis plays a vital role in helping to train people for employment and to find a good job that matches their skills and experience. Since 2002, the city has helped directly place 10,000 dislocated and low income adults into good quality jobs.

To understand why that is so significant, think about the personal toll of one person losing a job: on their family, on their neighborhood, and most importantly on them. Now think about what we have been able to do by giving 10,000 people a better way to live. That tells you why it is so important that this city government, more than almost any in the country, has stayed focused on getting our residents working, in good times and bad.

We can do this because we dedicated the time and money to develop a toolbox of strategies tailored to help people of various backgrounds and educational levels get back on their feet and get back to work. 

Central to our job training and placement success are the two Minneapolis Workforce Centers, I talked about a moment ago.  This is where people can get labor market and career information, research job leads, and attend workshops on job search strategies. Services are free and tailored to address individual needs and goals.

Minneapolis is one of the few cities in the country that coordinates our own Work Force Centers, which means we have much more flexibility to tie the work of these centers directly into our other job placement and economic development strategies.

Our centers are the only ones that provide over-the-phone and in-person job counseling. The Minneapolis Work Force Centers also provide a one-of-a-kind, two-week program called Employment Ready U that helps people update the skills they need to get back to work, and provides the vital human touch of peer support and motivation.

Our centers serve the most people of any in the state, nearly 60,000 last year alone, and the number increases every month. The number of workshops held in our Work Force Centers last year increased 75 percent compared to the year before, from 2,155 to 3,775 workshops. And yet, we know that there is much more work to be done and more people who need help.

Forty percent of the people served at our Work Force Centers had college or more education. Fortunately, with the help of the federal economic Recovery Act, we’ll now have the funds to help an additional 290 laid-off workers and an additional 200 low-income workers get the training they need and get back to work.

In normal times many residents of Minneapolis didn’t think they would ever need these Workforce Centers, but today’s economy has destabilized many people who never thought they would need help.  On my recent visit I ran into a close friend, and a woman who used to work with my sister.  

Our work helping those most in need for many years has made us better able to help those who never expected be there.  Help us spread the word that we can help.  If you know of anyone who needs help finding a job, just call 3-1-1 and our operators will take it from there.

Our work, and the work of our partners, is part of the reason why the unemployment rate in Minneapolis continues to be lower than the rest of the metro area, lower than the state and lower than the national unemployment rate. Almost no other major city in America can say that.

Minneapolis is better able to help the entire region in these tough economic times because of the groundwork we laid five years ago when we created the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED), a superagency that combined the old Planning Department, the independent Development Agency, and the employment and training network that had been isolated inside the Health Department.

One of the main advantages of this merger is we can now tie our job programs directly to our economic development efforts. By using an innovative new tool called the Minneapolis Workforce Employment Plan we can more effectively hire women, minorities and students, and more effectively support minority and women owned enterprises.  These Minneapolis Workforce Employment Plans allow the City to leverage public dollars to create more jobs for Minneapolis residents who live right near private development projects and allows us to connect local, minority and women owned contractors to these projects.

Since creating CPED in 2004, five Workforce Employment Plans have been negotiated to date, each connected with major private economic development projects, with a goal of more than 150 jobs for local residents living near these developments: Midtown Exchange, Fairview University Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital Expansion, and YWCA on West Broadway.

One of our strongest Workforce Employment partners is our host today: Coloplast. Not only did the city’s agreement with Kraus Anderson put local Northside residents to work building this beautiful facility, Coloplast itself has agreed to hire at least 128 Minneapolis residents, including 40 North Minneapolis residents, and hire at least 140 living wage jobs.

By working with the city, MCTC and Emerge through the Excellence in Manufacturing Training Program, Coloplast is now a successful avenue for local residents to become employed at one of the most successful medical device companies in the world.  Please join me in welcoming some of those employees who are with us today. In addition to putting adults to work now, Coloplast has also developed a college internship program with North High School, to be launched later this year, to prepare the next generation of trained workers.

Coloplast and other companies in the life-sciences sector are Minneapolis’ most important industries. More than 12 percent of the jobs in Minneapolis are in health care, and it’s the fastest growing part of the Minneapolis economy. According to Brookings, our metro area accounts for 22 percent of the entire national output of biomedical devices.

The total investments being made in Minneapolis by Allina, Abbott Northwestern, Fairview University, Hennepin County Medical Center, Coloplast, and Children’s Hospital total $1 billion. As I noted earlier, these projects include specific agreements to hire local residents and open opportunities for women and minority owned contractors.

According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal earlier this month, “employment in the health care field is still increasing due to raising demand fueled by changing demographics.” Despite layoffs, hospitals and clinics across Minneapolis have job openings. As of Monday, Fairview had 33 new positions open, Allina had 182 positions and HCMC had 28 positions.  

To help us deepen Minneapolis’ role in health care, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities opened an office in our city’s Department of Community Planning and Economic Development to launch an initiative called HealthForce. Its purpose is to work with health care companies to determine where they will need employees, and then fill the job pipeline with students from schools like the Roosevelt High School Health Careers Magnet and Minneapolis Community and Technical College. 

Although health care continues to represent an area of strength for Minneapolis’ economy, along with education, finance, and the arts, I believe that the city must play a central role in developing the workforce of tomorrow with the new green economy.

That’s why I’m excited to announce today the creation of the Minneapolis Green jobs Institute to train and place workers into the new green economy. The Green Jobs Institute brings together the excellent training institutions of Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Dunwoody, and Summit Academy OIC to develop a worker training curriculum with the Center for Energy and the Environment and validated by the Minneapolis Community Action Program. Three job targets have been established with specialty educators at these three institutions: home weatherization (Summit Academy), energy auditors (Dunwoody) and building recommissioning technician (MCTC).  We are looking to add other partners to prepare the green workforce of the future and with the help of federal dollars this project can hit the ground soon.

Job #2: Build a Home Grown Economy from the Ground Up
The second step in our agenda is building a local, homegrown economy from the ground up. When you dissect the economic challenges we face today, many of them come down to the issue of trust.  What company do you trust to protect your job or your investment?  Do you trust that your savings will be there when you retire? What businesses or individuals do lenders trust enough to ease up on credit?

I thought about this issue of trust Sunday when I read about a young couple who took all their money out of the stock market to invest in a duplex in south Minneapolis.  They felt that this property in their backyard was a better investment than more complex funds and companies far from where they live. The couple seemed to me to be part of a trend sped by the collapse of the complex, removed and sometimes mysterious financial markets.  If you need to trust anyone with your money, you are more likely to trust investing in something you can see and touch in your own backyard. But this isn’t just about investing. It’s also about entrepreneurship.  More and more workers and victims of cutbacks at large companies are deciding they would rather bet their future on a new venture that they start and run themselves.

This homegrown economy will be a key part of the new economy and that’s a good thing for our region because Minneapolis has always been a place that built prosperity at home. From our roots as the world’s Milling Capital to today’s position as the world’s Medical Device Capitol, from our history building retail powerhouses like Dayton-Hudson, and Target and Best Buy, we haven’t waited for others to deliver opportunity. Minneapolis builds opportunity in Minneapolis.

You can see that on almost every one of our major commercial streets. Lake Street and Central Avenue or Chicago at 48th Street: They aren’t coming to life because of national retail chains; opportunity is being created by homegrown entrepreneurs, often immigrants. Minneapolis’ economic strategy needs to stand aggressively with our entrepreneurs.

In 2008 we created the Great Streets Neighborhood Business Program to help businesses develop and succeed along commercial corridors and at commercial nodes throughout the city. We created innovative and unique low interest loan and business financing tools to help businesses grow; we provided gap financing for real estate development and development acquisition for transformative commercial development projects; we provided targeted funds to help businesses acquire property for redevelopment along commercial and transit corridors. In 2008, the city financed six loans totaling $1.8 million for development projects, including the new Seward Co-op, Juxtaposition Arts gallery at Emerson and West Broadway, and a new Chicago Avenue Fine Arts Center. We provided $530,000 in façade improvement matching grants to businesses in 26 commercial corridors, nodes, and LRT station areas.

In addition to financing businesses, over the last year we also brought together city staff from more than a dozen different departments through Minneapolis Development Review to help entrepreneurs and business owners navigate the ins and outs of starting a new business. Expert resource staff at Minneapolis Development Review help budding entrepreneurs and veteran business owners alike figure out how to get financing, where to locate, what you need to build, or how to craft a marketing and business plan; they’ll even help you make your business greener.

Knowing that much of our entrepreneurship is coming from immigrant communities means we have to tailor our help to meet their needs.  That’s what was behind the loan product our team developed with the African Development Corporation that has made it possible for Somali residents to get resources to start businesses without violating tenants of the Islamic faith.  Because our team worked with them and respected their culture, there is a new dress shop on Blaisdell Avenue and the Global Health Mart Pharmacy, a Somali-owned and -operated pharmacy in the Phillips neighborhood with over-the-counter medications and natural remedies.

One of my favorite new homegrown businesses is Wood From The Hood, started by a Minneapolis couple who collects trees, many taken down for Dutch Elm, and recycles them for new construction. The owners came to one of our green jobs networking meetings and made the contacts that helped them get a contract for our new Public Works facility.

Our local, homegrown economy can also be very literally grown at home. That’s the idea behind Homegrown Minneapolis, an initiative we launched this year to create the market for a local, healthy, and sustainable food supply. It is my hope that with this initiative, we can:

• Grow our local economy by supporting small farms and local jobs, creating new business opportunities, and encouraging the re-circulation of financial capital within the city. 

• Protect our environment by producing and buying local food to improve air quality and pollution by reducing the amount of transportation and packaging required to bring our food from farm to table; local foods grown in a sustainable manner reduce chemical and water use.

• Improve our health by increasing the consumption of healthy foods to improve nutrition and reduce obesity and other chronic diseases, especially in urban areas that lack these foods.

• Enhance food security by helping residents to grow, sell, or easily obtain a consistent, adequate supply of fresh, local foods and empower people to be more self-sufficient.

Over the past few months, more than 110 local residents, business owners, farmers, and environmentalists have been meeting in work groups to develop recommendations for ways that the city can grow our local food economy by working with farmers markets, community and backyard gardens, small enterprise urban agriculture, and the commercial use of locally grown foods.  I look forward to receiving initial recommendations later this spring and plan to issue a final Homegrown Minneapolis report this summer.

Anyone who tells you that an urbanized city like Minneapolis should be not involved in the food economy should remember a few names: General Mills, Pillsbury, International Multifoods, or Cargill. Minneapolis’ economy has always been powered by businesses tied to the way we eat, and in this year when the historic Minneapolis Grain Exchange closed its doors, it’s time for us to explore our next stage in the food economy.

Job #3: Play on the Global Stage
The third part of our Opportunity Agenda is built on homegrown assets but takes us to distant markets.  Any review of the key strengths of Minneapolis has to include that fact that this city in the middle of the prairies has been, and still is, disproportionately connected to the rest of the world.

Our early history as the Milling Capital of the World opened up a prairie frontier to the rest of the globe and our multinational companies grew. Now, Minneapolis businesses routinely work around the globe and today 26,000 city residents work for foreign-owned companies.  Our own University of Minnesota has always has been, and continues to be an internationally recognized institution.  In fact, you might not know that the University of Minnesota has more students from China than any other American university.

Anyone who doubts what a global economy can do for Minneapolis doesn’t have to look beyond this very building.  Minneapolis’ business and city leaders have tried for decades to move a major employer into north Minneapolis and it finally happened today because of a company from Denmark. Thanks to Coloplast for showing us that the global economy is a world of opportunity.

Minneapolis is a global city and we need to start acting like one. While we are the home to global giants like Target, Best Buy and US Bank Minneapolis city government has failed to aggressively seize the opportunity of the global marketplace.  We haven’t leveraged the relationships we have with our locally-based international companies to open up new markets for other Minneapolis-based companies around the world. Austin, TX for example has city staff working in seven different countries to expand business opportunities. Minneapolis has zero. It’s time that we stepped up to take a more central role on the global stage.

That’s part of the reason I’m excited to announce today that in May I will be traveling to Beijing, China, as the only American mayor invited to speak at the International Forum on Development of High-Tech Enterprises at the Great Hall of the People. While there, I will work with our Minneapolis companies who have operations in China to foster more business relationships to secure future business for more Minneapolis-based companies.

I will also be working with Meet Minneapolis to position us as a destination for leisure travel and technical study from China using the Northwest/Delta route structure. China’s travelers are the world’s fastest growing travel market in the world. A year ago Chinese visitors spent $2.5 billion in the U.S. and the market is expected to grow by 81percent. We will compete for this market, not only to bring Chinese travelers to Minneapolis, but to begin sowing the seeds for future business relationships and spur economic development for Minneapolis businesses eager to do business in China and around the world.

In the competition for global markets, Minneapolis, a city with extraordinary national advantages, has fallen behind. We can’t catch up overnight, not in this economic climate, and not at the expense of the critical issues here at home.  But we can look for smart, strategic ways to assert ourselves on the global stage.

One place where we are way ahead of others is in workforce development. Most businesses in America today worry about how they will recruit workers who can compete in a global economy, who speak other languages, and who can cross cultural barriers.

Most smart businesses in Minneapolis know they won’t have trouble finding those workers.  Our workers of tomorrow are growing up in Minneapolis schools, where students come from 80 different countries and speak more than 80 languages. Students born in Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America and Russia spend every day with students born in Camden and Whittier and Seward and Longfellow.  No one has to teach Minneapolis students how to cross cultural barriers because they do that every day. But we do have to continue to invest in them.

That’s why it is so critical that we continue our work on the Minneapolis Promise: a package of three privately funded initiatives that have put career centers in every public high school, funded the STEP UP summer jobs program, and provided free college tuition.

Since Achieve Minneapolis developed the College & Career Centers in 2006, these have been visited by 140,000 students and 9,500 have worked with a counselor to develop their Life Plan.

Since 2004, STEP UP and our other summer jobs programs have hired 7,673 Minneapolis young people. More than 80 percent of those are kids of color and about 70 percent have gone on to college, including 131 students who had a STEP UP internship at the University of Minnesota and later went on to enroll at the U. Last year alone, 212 businesses employed 1,850 youth through STEP UP. This summer about 2,350 young people will be working in Minneapolis, including 500 whose jobs will be funded by the federal economic Recovery Act.

The third part of the Minneapolis Promise — free college tuition — also has shown exceptional results. Since the Power of You was launched in 2006, it has helped 640 Minneapolis students enroll at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. The U of MN Founder’s Program, also launched in 2006, has given college aid to 353 Minneapolis students and it is being re-launched as Discover U to serve even more students. That’s nearly 1,000 students with free tuition!

Taken together, these three parts of the Minneapolis Promise are dramatically changing the lives of an entire generation of our students. But there are serious challenges ahead for every part of this program. The career centers, led by Achieve Minneapolis, depend on private donations that are much harder to get these days. STEP UP depends on employers who face the difficult challenge of providing jobs to kids while they lay off adults.  The college access programs at MCTC and the U are both vulnerable as these institutions face serious budget challenges of their own. This is a critical juncture for the Minneapolis Promise and we cannot lose momentum on these programs that can give our community a head start on every other region in the competition for the global market.  That’s why I will continue my advocacy and fundraising for each of the partners, and why I commit that in spite of our own budget challenges, Minneapolis will deliver more STEP UP youth jobs this summer than ever before.

Job #4: Incubate Innovation
The fourth step in our agenda is creating the kind of city we need to foster innovation. We know the old economy is not coming back and a new economy will create opportunity for those who innovate.  So ask yourself: Where does innovation occur? In rare cases new ideas are hatched by people in isolation: a researcher in a lab, an inventor in a garage.  But in most cases, innovation comes when people put their heads together, when teams are formed intentionally or by accident.  I’m no physicist but I know this: people are like ions; when you put them together they create energy.  And bringing people together is what we need to make every part of Minneapolis an incubator of innovation.

That happens every day as the streets and skyways of downtown Minneapolis bring together 165,000 people from every walk of life.  Employees from U.S. Bank and Thrivent talk about opportunity in the new banking system.  Creatives from Fallon or Campbell Mithun trade ideas with a buyer from Target.  Employees from Piper Jaffray and a start-up we’ve yet to hear about talk about the next round of funding options. Or two workers unhappy in what they are doing now, or maybe who just lost their jobs, sit down for coffee and hatch the beginning of a new company that could someday become the next Capella University or Fair Isaacs.

Workers like this come from every part of our region to be downtown. It’s why more companies are moving downtown and it’s why we have to continue our work on sweeping new visions for transit. These visions need to become reality so we can bring employees and customers from the University and St. Paul on light rail, from Big Lake on commuter rail, from Burnsville on bus rapid transit, and scores of commuter buses from the new transit malls on Marquette and Second, and from every direction on bike.

The groundwork is being laid, but we can’t stop now.  We’ll move rapidly this year on plans for LRT to the southwest and the on Bottineau Blvd. to the north, and plans for starting high-speed rail to Duluth, Rochester and Chicago.

We cannot slow down because this is a transformational moment for American transportation. On Monday I was in Washington meeting with Ray LaHood, the Obama administration’s new transportation secretary, and Adolfo Carrion, the new White House Director of Urban Affairs.  We talked about the resolve this president and this administration has for transforming the way we move in America, and I am determined to keep Minneapolis at the table as these exciting new visions become reality.
Downtown Minneapolis is one of the country’s leading centers of commerce and innovation and it’s about to take a dramatic step forward with the Downtown Improvement District, which will put $6 million a year of private funds into making downtown cleaner, greener and safer.  The improvement district will be about downtown, but it will also teach us a lot about how we can improve our public private partnerships in other parts of the city.

We also have concentrations of talent in other parts of the city, and we have to do more to turn them into incubators that actually bring people together. There are more than 2,000 physicians on Chicago Avenue’s Lifescience Corridor. We need more people-oriented places like the Global Market and the street front restaurant in Children’s Hospital to help them exchange ideas and nurture innovation. Riverside Avenue has an exceptional concentration of medial and education talents and Augsburg and Fairview are finally turning that area into more of a people place by bringing bookstores and restaurants right onto the street front. University Research Park surrounding the new Gopher football stadium has some of the country’s most advanced research facilities, but this won’t be a true incubator until we incorporate the new LRT stop, new businesses and new public places where people, like ions, can come together to create the sparks we need to spur innovation.

We have bold transportation systems, and innovative public spaces to help incubate innovation, but none of it will be effective unless we continue to protect that most basic urban need: making Minneapolis a safe place to call home. Experience has taught us that economic development helps reduce crime and crime reduction helps fuel economic development. Just look at the Phillips neighborhood, once called “Murderapolis,” which is now creating more jobs than any other part of the state.

Public safety will continue to be our top priority. We are investing $210 million in that effort this year, and the results of our ongoing efforts are clear. Violent crime fell last year by double digits percentages for the second year in a row — citywide and in every police precinct. Robberies, aggravated assaults, and juvenile crime were all down. Perhaps most important, last year Minneapolis had the fewest homicides in 25 years.

Even now, in the middle of an economic crisis, we are maintaining the public safety gains we’ve made. So far this year violent crime is down 16 percent below last year and our safety gains continue to be seen city-wide, with violent crime continuing to fall in every police precinct. Homicides are less than half at this point last year.

#5: We aren’t in this alone
When you think back to those people in the Workforce Center I talked about at the start of the speech, you remember that their hope came in large part because they weren’t in this alone. At a point where they had every right to feel scared and vulnerable, their optimism came from the comforting fact that they could lean on each other.

This city, and this city government, needs to remember the same lesson. Residents and city government; city government and education institutions; the business community and labor: We’ve never needed each other more, and we will succeed or fail together. That’s also true outside our borders. With all the strengths Minneapolis has, we are not an island. I’ve used the words “city” and “region” interchangeably in this speech because, in fact, they are. As Minneapolis’ economy goes so goes the region — and vice versa. A job created in Edina may employ a person in Minneapolis and the companies headquartered in Minneapolis employ people from across the region.

Partnership has never mattered more and we now have a powerful and aggressive partner we haven’t been able to depend on in recent years: the federal government. President Obama inherited a mess, but he’s responded by creating a stimulus effort that holds tremendous opportunity for the city, its people and its businesses. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is the largest domestic spending program in the country’s history.  At least $9 billion will flow to Minnesota in investments and tax breaks, and millions will come to Minneapolis. To make sure we take advantage of this historic opportunity, we have created an internal Economic Recovery Action Team similar to the internal team that navigated us through the response to the 35W Bridge Collapse. Council President Johnson and I have directed them to be laser focused on two clear goals: save and create jobs and make investments that position our city for future growth.

If we do this right we will have resources to help the city with public safety, foreclosure response workforce training, new energy efficiency grants, and meeting our two aggressive housing goals: foreclosure response and creating affordable housing. In the past three months Minneapolis has been able to secure $14 million dollars from the federal government in our fight to restore neighborhoods hit hard by foreclosure.

That adds to the money we have already secured and are spending from city, state and private resources to rebuild neighborhoods by acquiring, redeveloping and reselling homes. When we are done we will have spent about $90 million to bring back a stronger urban housing market. Our largest housing rehab partner is GMHC and 62 percent of their residential rehab work is going to Northside, minority, and women owned contractors. Our goal is to rebuild the Northside by building up Northside companies to rebuild the Northside housing market.

Housing is a good place to end today because it’s where this economic crisis began. The complexities of a global economic collapse cannot be controlled within the borders of Minneapolis, or by our city government, but we need to remember that this whole mess started with a housing crisis. A home was foreclosed; then another; and another. Soon lenders’ portfolios were destabilized. Lenders worried; credit seized up. People stopped spending. Companies retrenched. People lost jobs. Credit seized up even more.

Housing is critically important in itself, but as we have seen in recent months, it is also deeply linked to the health of the overall economy. Being part of a neighborhood that reclaims a single foreclosed property can start reversing the same forces that caused this problem. You can’t rewrite history but you can retrace your steps, and doing that helps us understand that fixing the housing crisis that helped get us into this mess can also help get us out.

This Opportunity Agenda is bold and broad but it is also straightforward:

• Invest in people

• Home grow businesses

• Reach globally

• Incubate innovation

• Build strong partnerships.

People are hurting out there, and for them we have to be aggressive and bring urgency to our work.  But we should not panic.  This work is not new to the city of Minneapolis.  For several years we have been laying the groundwork for the Opportunity Agenda and our job now is to do what we know needs to be done.

The conversation and the work have just begun.  Putting this Opportunity Agenda into action will take all of us.  To map out that work, I will be convening a roundtable with leaders in business, labor, education and the civic community.  It will be chaired by two leaders who have created many jobs in this community:  Bill George and Mike Sweeney.

Being in government today, especially local government, especially in Minnesota, we have to spend a lot of our time cutting budgets, restructuring services and making the tough decisions on what we can no longer do.  That work won’t go away, and we cannot shy away from it.    

But it would be an enormous mistake to use these tough times as a reason to retrench, to do less.  Doing less is not an option.  We have to be bold.  We didn’t grow from a tiny village just downriver from here because we were timid or intimidated. That’s the way it’s always been in Minneapolis, and why our agenda will ensure Minneapolis will always be A City of Opportunity.

Thank you.