More than 40 percent of companies on the U.S. Fortune 500 list were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants. Recognizing immigrants’ financial contributions, the City of Worthington is creating a guide to help potential immigrant entrepreneurs navigate the often confusing codes, laws, and bank regulations. “We have a lot of folks in town that would be great entrepreneurs and one of the things that was kind of eye-opening when I sat with the human resources manager out at JBS he said, ‘I employ people in my plants that were pilots, doctors, city engineers, and all sorts of other things back in their home country you know before they came here. I just see a tremendous amount of potential in these people other than maybe what they’re doing here at our plant’,” reflects Jason Brisson, Director of Community and Economic Development.  

For new business owners, the most challenging part of starting their business is often times the initial investment in a space. To help alleviate this hurdle for new businesses, the City of Worthington has taken on a new role as landlord. In this model, the city buys lands, develops the shell of the building, and local businesses then rent out and outfit the interior for their operation. This allows amenities like bowling alleys, movie theaters, and restaurants to operate without the substantial costs of developing their own space. “All they really have to pay for is their equipment and their operational expenses, so that way, they can get ahead of the game instead of having to be a building owner and this and that,” states Jason Brisson, Director of Community and Economic Development. The end result is more services, amenities, and places of gathering for residents in Worthington to enjoy.

City as Landlord

Worthington, Minnesota

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The Office of Housing and Community Services “provides assistance, information and referrals to residents of Eden Prairie.” All members of the community can utilize the services of this division, including immigrants, seniors, and children. Office of Housing and Community Services helps people access programs and find the information they need to lead healthy and full lives in the community. With close to 20% of the population being people of color, many new immigrants, the office moved from the City Hall to the Eden Prairie Center to make visiting the Housing and Community Services Division less intimidating for immigrant populations. The Eden Prairie Center is more accessible for families with children and includes a computer center within the office for training, assistance, and housing and employment applications.

Office of Housing and Community Services

Eden Prairie, Minnesota

Photo credit: Jonathan Stanley of Office of Housing and Community Services

The Puppet Wagon is a free program that promotes health and wellness by providing an active way to engage the imaginations of children, from toddlers to elementary school students. Shows are performed throughout the week during the summer and are held in Eagan’s Parks. By hosting the program in a park, the city offers a chance for all residents to participate and play, no matter what age, race, income, or physical ability. In 2014, over 4,000 children attended. Each week has a theme, that ranges from health to science. The “ask a puppet” time and other opportunities encourages audience participation.

Puppet Wagon

Eagan, Minnesota

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The Lincoln Park business district is located in a predominantly poor, minority area of Duluth and yet city parking meters line the street of shops. Mayor Emily Larson is working to eliminate meters which she sees as an unnecessary financial burden on the poor and one that sends the message that this is a place to get in and out. She hopes that the city will reinvest in this neighborhood with the basic services its population needs like laundromats, salons, and coffee shops, important facets of local economic development and ways to emphasize a city’s uniqueness, both as an overall “branding” strategy and to attract visitors to downtown (Grodach & Loukaitou‐Sideris, 2007). The Mayor states that the city has the opportunity to provide, “the stuff that a commerce-based business district [needs], but that maintains the values of a working neighborhood.”

Lincoln Park Business District

Duluth, Minnesota

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Ranked as the number one high school in Minnesota by US World News and Report in 2017, the Math and Science Academy is an innovative and sustainable model of academic excellence in Woodbury. The school aims to create well-rounded, lifelong learners and global citizens by providing accelerated curricula in all subjects, with an emphasis on math and science. With 48% students of color, the school is an educational resource to students of a wide range of cultural backgrounds. “I would say that…our strong school districts are also critical to attracting diverse populations,” states Eric Searles, Woodbury’s City Planner. The Math and Science Academy’s small class sizes help promote community by encouraging an exchange of ideas from people from all backgrounds, allowing students to learn from each other’s unique backgrounds.

Math and Science Academy

Woodbury, Minnesota

Photo credit: Christine Morrison of Math and Science Academy

The Hennepin County Library in downtown Minneapolis provides space for Conversation Circles — a program where adults can practice speaking English once a week for one to two hours. The library also offers English Language Learner classes and workforce and business development programs. The New American Center , which is “heavily used by Somali students,” according to a Coordinating Librarian of Hennepin County Library, has also been successful in partnering volunteers with key users of the library.

Hennepin County Library

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Franklin Avenue is one of the main arteries that connects east and west Minneapolis. Being the site of the American Indian Cultural Corridor, Franklin Avenue was noted by Air France Magazine as the #6 reason to visit Minneapolis: “New York, LA and San Francisco have their Little Italy and their Chinatown but Minneapolis is the only place where you will find an American Indian Cultural Corridor” (Balavoine, 2013, p. 109). Plans by NACDI, the Native American Community Development Institute, to expand the intersection of Cedar and Franklin will include an American Indian owned hotel, a convention facility, restaurants, a cultural center and museum and performance center.

Franklin Avenue, American Indian Cultural Corridor

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Atum Azzahir, the Cultural Wellness Center’s Executive Director explains her work in the following way: “If I were to think about the work that I’m responsible for and do, it is so that people can speak for themselves. So that people are able to create the space where they have enough wisdom and knowledge and enough experience with solving their problems and coming up with solutions.”  The Cultural Wellness Center provides the space and services to learn about one’s own culture, and to encourage visitors to think about culture as a resource to build capability and be involved.

Cultural Wellness Center

Minneapolis, Minnesota

In 1999, the Landfall Teen Center opened, quickly becoming a destination spot for youth in the community. Teens come to participate in after-school activities, like community gardening, cooking classes, job and career guidance, and biking trips. The center also offers computer stations, 3D printing, and space for music production. “They do a lot of organized biking trips and just learn different things about being a teenager,” explains Edward Shukle, City Administrator. “[The Center] also helps with homework. They’ll help mentor those that are having trouble in school.” Teens have also helped volunteer to transform the center, fostering community pride. Many teens in the area were reluctant to bring friends to their manufactured-home community, but now, many are sharing what they have built at the Teen Center with friends from neighboring communities. After school programs have impacts that range from academics to health.

Teen Center

Landfall, Minnesota

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