Hennepin County funds 18 minority business incubators and commercial space projects

For years, small staff from the Indigenous Peoples Task Force provided culturally based medical, social, health and economic services at an outdated community center in South Minneapolis, where patients sometimes had to stand because waiting rooms were so small. outside.

Some of its youth and drama programs need to be housed in a nearby church. Even with the logistical constraints, the group started a company that produces baby food using heirloom crops grown by Native Americans and food grown and harvested using sustainable practices. Plants were grown by people learning agricultural skills on acres of land south of the Twin Cities.

The small hodge-podge workplace of the working group will soon be replaced by the Mikwanedun Audisookon Centre for Arts and Wellness. The effort consolidates and expands its existing services and adds a theater, a commercial kitchen with a café for people to sell their food and space to launch other new businesses.

To help build the new facility, the task force received nearly $1 million from $10 million in grant funding recently approved by Hennepin County for 18 primarily minority-focused organizations and nonprofits. The goal is to promote affordable commercial space and provide a venue for entrepreneurs to develop restaurants, event and training centers, offices and other assets for communities that often face barriers to economic growth.

In all, the county-backed project will create more than 400,000 square feet of commercial and nonprofit space, support more than 550 local business owners and employ more than 1,000 people. The total cost of these projects exceeds $270 million, including city and state funding in addition to county grants.

“The county has been focused on ways to help businesses recover during the pandemic, and this is just an extension of that goal,” said County Commission Chair Marion Green. “It’s a very targeted way to spend pandemic relief, and it has a big impact on the community.”

The one-time program, called the Community Investment Initiative, seeks applicants focused on the economic recovery strategies of minority entrepreneurs, affordable commercial space developers and nonprofits. A request for proposals was made in March and 46 applications were received.

Much of the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal pandemic funding received by Hennepin County has been used for COVID-19 concerns and short-term business and housing financial relief. Patricia Fitzgerald, director of community and economic development, said commissioners hoped the move would lead to long-term transformation in the city and specific neighborhoods and reduce disparities.

She said when county staff conducted research and spoke to stakeholders, they were told that what was most needed was more affordable commercial space and a response to being on the front lines during the pandemic but now struggling financially and having space issues. of non-profit organizations.

“Nationally, defining what an affordable commercial space is is a fairly new field,” said Ryan Kelley, program manager for the Community Investment Initiative.

Other ongoing projects

During the application process, the county learned about the cities of Bloomington, St. Louis, and more. St. Louis Park, Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park are already considering projects targeting minority businesses, commercial spaces and nonprofits.

Brooklyn Park purchased a vacant commercial space with the aim of transforming the site into a business incubator. The $8.5 million project will create 27,000 square feet of commercial space for up to 60 non-food retail and commercial businesses. City officials said there will be commercial resources and technical assistance, as well as areas to host meetings, events and training.

Other projects include the development of 40,000 square feet of commercial and community space at Juxtaposition Arts in Minneapolis, and the conversion of the historic Coliseum building into a Lake Street retail center for 25 small businesses and entrepreneurs of color, Kelly said use. A gas station has also been transformed into space for four businesses.

growing space

The Aboriginal Task Force received $750,000 from the county and moved to East 23rd Street in 2008. It provides services divided into HIV and hepatitis C case reduction and testing, opioid use prevention, youth activities and employment opportunities centered on theatre programming. They also manage a 14-unit housing facility for people living with HIV and other problems. The three floors where the task force met were the basement, main floor and attic, which staff said did not leave much room for privacy.

Mike Neumann, the coordinator of the new facility, said the task force planned to build a new space a few years after moving into the existing location. The city sold a nearby vacant lot to the workgroup for $1, he said. They will break ground next spring in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis at a cost of $10 million and are expected to be completed within a year.

In addition to a theatre, the new facility will feature a commercial kitchen serving traditional food, promote the Indigi-Baby Food brand, provide space for new business owners, and add a large clinic and consultation area, he said.

Kelly said the new space will provide entrepreneurs with an opportunity to create wealth that they can pass on to the next generation.

“Even if businesses come and go, the space will always be there,” he said.

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