Dayton offers initiatives to spur new jobs for blacks

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 9, 2011 - 12:11 AM

State has nation's worst black-white disparity in unemployment. He spells out plans for hiring and education.

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Gov. Mark Dayton promised at the summit to have this response ready in nine days.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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Gov. Mark Dayton announced Friday that state government will take several steps to generate jobs for minorities, with a special focus on helping economically depressed north Minneapolis.

"Our administration knows there is a need to create more jobs and opportunities for African-American adults and youth," Dayton said.

His remarks came in a report he promised after attending a Twin Cities Economic Summit last week.

Citing a jobless rate for blacks in Minnesota that is more than three times that of whites -- the worst disparity in the nation -- Dayton called his proposals a "first step." He said immediate action was necessary, and a new foundation must be laid "for long-term sustainable change."

Items in the 17-page report include a $300,0000 "FastTrac" program to give 100 unemployed and underemployed north Minneapolis residents immediate training and other help to prepare them for college or work. The funds would come from the state's Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Dayton already this month issued an executive order creating a state affirmative action council. Through the council, some of his commissioners will examine the state's affirmative action programs and propose improvements. The state has come under fire for falling short in minority hiring in recent years.

He said his administration also will immediately push to expand programs to boost minority hiring within state agencies and increase contracting with minority-owned businesses.

Katharine Tinucci, the governor's press secretary, said Friday that the governor plans additional meetings like the economic summit to assess progress. She said he was "so impressed by the turnout and by the quality of the presentations and the questions from community members." The meeting in north Minneapolis on March 30 drew about 400 people.

Acknowledged limitations

Dayton acknowledged that several of the proposals will require legislation and that the current Legislature does not support some of what's on his wish list, including full funding of the state Human Rights Department.

This year, the report said, DEED will pay for summer career camps and extended-day activities for ninth- and 10th-graders on the city's North Side. The department also is tasked this fall with co-hosting a program in north Minneapolis schools to promote study and careers in science, math and technology.

By June, the report said, DEED will apply for $15 million from the federal government's new State Business Credit Initiative, and the administration will reactivate an Urban Initiatives Board to encourage private investment, job creation and economic development in low-income areas of the metro.

One of the issues repeatedly raised at last week's summit was the state's lack of emphasis on hiring minority contractors and workers when state contracts are let. "Our administration will work with the Legislature on any targeted bills proposed during the legislative session," the report said.

The report cited a recent Star Tribune article that noted the black unemployment rate in Minnesota was 22 percent, more than three times the rate for whites. Four studies found the Twin Cities and Minnesota to have the largest such gap in the United States.

Dayton's proposals drew modest praise and also concern that the solutions fell significantly short. Shawn Lewis, a board member of the Pan African Community Endowment of the Saint Paul Foundation, called the report "a step in the right direction."

But Lewis said Dayton should "develop a greater level of specificity" in his goals. He said Dayton should spell out specific targets in job numbers for each quarter of each year of his administration, and specific, targeted goals for driving down the unemployment rate and reducing the jobless gap.

"If he as chief executive of the state does not put pressure on his commissioners to deliver results, they are going to get a sense that this isn't important," Lewis said.

Myron Orfield, a former DFL legislator from Minneapolis and director of the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota, said every proposal Dayton made was good, "but I don't think it addresses the core issues of racial and social segregation and how they relate to economic and educational opportunity."

Randy Furst • 612-673-7382

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