Eliminating racial inequalities is key to ensuring long-term economic growth in the Twin Cities, the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul told a group of business leaders Tuesday.

Speaking at a joint meeting of the two cities' chambers of commerce, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman offered similar messages of optimism about development innovation in their cities. But the two mayors also pointed to a need for more work to eliminate gaps between white and minority residents in everything from education to crime rates to leadership roles in business.

"People are investing, our city is growing, and I just want to make sure that everybody can do that … because we will be a better city when people can," Hodges said. "If I do anything here today, I want to make the case for inclusive growth being good for everybody in the region: all businesses, all residents in our region."

Both mayors urged the audience to seek ways to employ youth, particularly through a pair of youth job training programs: Right Track in St. Paul and STEP-UP in Minneapolis.

Coleman said he is working with school officials in St. Paul to ensure the city's efforts are in sync with what students are learning — and helping them to turn those lessons into work experience. He said the work experience young people can gain at local businesses is often key to building careers several years later.

"They can understand what it means when you have to be at work at 8 o'clock, that you have to dress appropriately, that you have to act appropriately," Coleman said. "They get that first touch of the workplace environment so they can build a résumé that says they're capable of being a future worker."

Hodges and Coleman urged the audience to be more public with their pride for their cities. They pointed out business and cultural achievements ranging from the local music scene to the upcoming opening of St. Paul's new downtown ballpark to a record-setting year for building permits in Minneapolis.

Coleman even took jabs at other cities, noting that Minnesotans handle snow and cold better than people bracing for storms on the East Coast.

"I tell people if you want to live in Denver, it's a mile high — you can hardly breathe there," he said. "If you want to live in Portland, that's great, if you don't have a need for a job … [In the Twin Cities] we have assets that we can sell in this country."

Erin Golden • 612-673-4790