The March 18 article “Stadium vendor far short of goal: Workforce is diverse, but no thanks to nonprofit that was hired to help” totally missed the mark. We expect better from a major newspaper in a growing and diverse community.
It is no secret that Minnesota has the worst racial disparities on most socioeconomic indicators in the nation. The success of minority employment hiring on the Vikings stadium construction could have far-reaching implications for the economic well-being of our community as a whole. This raises the question of why the success of the Vikings stadium, which is exceeding all its workforce and business development goals for people of color, is not being trumpeted.
Rather than applauding this unprecedented accomplishment, the Star Tribune squandered this opportunity to educate its readers about employment disparities in our cities. Instead, it chose to unfairly castigate a well-respected African-American-led legacy institution — Summit Academy Opportunities Industrialization Center (SAOIC) and its African-American leader, Louis King.
King, like many others, may have underestimated the actual effectiveness of Mortenson Construction, Thor Construction, subcontractors, the stadium authority’s equity program and the trade unions, and therefore overestimated the actual needs on the project. If this is the extent of the wrong- doing, then all parties involved should be painted with the same brush, not just one person and one organization. King was singled out, even though, according to the article, SAOIC was part of a “coalition” of 14 organizations and colleges.
SAOIC was not alone in its concern that the minority workforce participation goals would be difficult to reach. Initially, many questioned the feasibility of the state’s new 32 percent minority workforce participation goal. It had never been done before on such a huge scale. Recent Star Tribune headlines are replete with stories of publicly supported construction projects that have failed to meet even lower minority workforce goals.
It was prudent, therefore, for the stadium authority to support an innovative collaboration of organizations to provide additional workers of color if the need arose. It did this by creating a pay-for-performance contracting mechanism that ensured no resources would be allocated unless actual workers were trained and placed on the construction site.
Contrary to the title and tenor of the article, there was no wrong- doing, no malfeasance and no scandal attributable to Mr. King or SAOIC. No public money was squandered. In fact, there was no suggestion in the article that SAOIC had not met its contractual obligations. Yet the story was front-page news.
SAOIC and its coalition partners have provided training to thousands of low-income people in a variety of fields. These jobs change people’s lives. They become taxpaying citizens who contribute to everyone’s well-being and enhance our community.
The African-American community is diverse, with multiple perspectives on any given subject. To rely so heavily on one source to represent our many perspectives is neither fair nor objective.
We seek balance and fairness when we read the Star Tribune — nothing more and nothing less. In this case, the newspaper fell way below this key standard.
Gary L. Cunningham is president and CEO of the Metropolitan Economic Development Association. Jeffrey A. Hassan is executive director of the African American Leadership Forum. Ravi Norman is CEO of Thor Construction. Toni Carter is a Ramsey County commissioner.