If Scarcity is the Problem, Jobs are the Solution

If you’ve been following this race, you have probably heard that crime is a result of scarcity in our society. This is true to some degree. In fact, a recent article in the Star Tribune said that philanthropic focus on helping people find jobs “reflects a growing sense that the most effective way to address homelessness, poverty and the effects of racial disparities may be through job training and workforce development[1].” Yet we’re not addressing that connection. What are we doing to sustain our economic vitality so as to ensure that for the long term, we’ve fostered enough good paying jobs to go around? What are we doing to ensure that the kinds of employment that best serve our community aren’t scarce?

The answer: nothing. But I want to change that.

Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington D.C., created a plan to increase jobs in her city. The plan includes job growth strategies specific to individual wards, each tailored to an area’s particular needs. If we do this in Minneapolis, we can see a reduction in scarcity while creating a vibrant economy for everyone in our city for the long term.

The D.C. plan is complex and detailed, so I’ll just highlight a few of its features.

Build Here, Hire Here

The plan requires city-funded contracts to hire city residents at a rate of 51%. Implementing this in Minneapolis would help improve the lives of thousands of our citizens. We could even take it a step farther. In areas where employment is lower, we could make this condition even more specific -- if you want to build your business in near North Minneapolis with city assistance, a large percentage of your workers must live in near North Minneapolis.

Making it Easier to Start a Business – For Everyone

For many would-be entrepreneurs -- especially entrepreneurs of color -- the costs of starting a business present an insurmountable hurdle. D.C. reduced the cost of doing business by establishing an “inclusive innovation fund” that helps people who are underrepresented in the economy gain access to the capital they need to start or scale up their businesses.  The city could partner with organizations that have expertise in particular business sectors to effectively help businesses start up and grow.  The food entrepreneur sector in Minneapolis quickly comes to mind here.

Connecting Entrepreneurs with Key Stakeholders

D.C.s “FedTech” Initiative connects tech entrepreneurs with inventors at federal research labs, which gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their ideas and scale up their businesses, which, of course, creates jobs. We have everything we need to create similar initiatives here in Minneapolis. In addition to the food sector, ours can focus health and wellness as well as arts and culture -- sectors that are organic to us.

Onboarding Nonprofits

D.C. trains nonprofits to deliver ‘effective employment services.’ While we have some amazing nonprofits doing work in this area, we could collaborate with them and with Hennepin County to ensure that we are preparing people for the jobs of today as well as for those jobs we want to create.

We need a plan

Washington, D.C. and other cities in our country have economic development plans.  We need such a plan. We cannot take our current economic vitality for granted, as uneven as it may be for our community.  We must take intentional action to ensure the future of our economy even when things seem good in the near term.  

The fact is, we’ve relied on the same handful of Fortune 500 companies for too long, yet haven’t had a new Fortune 500 company founded in Minneapolis in over forty years! Our people -- all of our people -- deserve leadership that is looking down the road, anticipating changes and working hard to  protect their best interests and those of the city as a whole.   

[1] http://www.startribune.com/philanthropy-s-new-focus-in-minnesota-putting-people-into-jobs/438701133/

Tom Hoch