Thor Companies, Minnesota’s largest minority-owned business, also is a construction contractor at work on its $36 million, 90,000-square-foot office-retail headquarters complex in north Minneapolis that is scheduled to open in February of 2018.
The company, founded 35 years ago by an African American, northside-born trucker and laborer named Richard Copeland, also is making good on its minority-hiring goals.
Thor CEO Ravi Norman said recently the company is exceeding its goal of a 40-percent minority workforce rate in cooperation with Hennepin County and small business contractors.
“As optimistic as we were about meeting our own aggressive goal, the actual numbers prove that we maximize participation instead of just trying to meet a goal,” Norman said. “We now believe we can do even better, moving forward in terms of minority hiring and business contractors. Our highly diverse and motivated workforce has proven more than up to the task.”
The workforce includes members of ethnic groups, women, military veterans and those with disabilities.
The Thor project at Plymouth and Penn avenues is the first major commercial construction project on the Minneapolis north side in decades
Thor will relocate its development, design and construction business of about 250 employees from Fridley to the north side, the end of town with the highest unemployment, minority population and poverty rate. The $36 million Thor project is part of $100-million project at the four-corner intersection, including an expanded Northpoint Health and Wellness, the medial-and-social services nonprofit; a new Estes Funeral Chapel across Plymouth and a parking ramp.
The half-empty intersection was once part of a prominent commercial hub that slid after the race riots of the 1960s. Business owners closed or moved to the fast-growing suburbs, such as St. Louis Park and Golden Valley. The Thor investment is considered vital for a neighborhood that has struggled to attract commerce amid years of depressed housing prices, flight of the middle class to the suburbs and crime headlines.
However, in recent years a slow, building-by-building commercial revival has emerged along nearby Glenwood Avenue and W. Broadway. And housing prices in north Minneapolis, among the most affordable in the Twin Cities area, also are rising along with hopes. Nearby North High School is building enrollment and small businesses are growing along nearby W. Broadway Avenue, the main commercial drag.
Thor and its government and commercial partners have been soliciting neighborhood residents of the north side and adjacent Brooklyn Center for employment opportunities, as well as working with workforce-development trainers such as Summit Academy and Minneapolis Urban League.