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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Bruce Corrie, Economics Professor, Concordia University, St. Paul
November 20, 2015

Minority ALANA communities are crucial economic assets for Minnesota


Leaving the minority population out of the system is a threat to our economic competitiveness, says Bruce Corrie of Concordia University in St. Paul. He asks whether we can afford to have big gaps between the haves and have-nots and whether the have-nots can climb the economic ladder, and how quickly.

There is a demographic squeeze in Minnesota right now, Corrie says, due to the slowing of growth in the labor force at the same time the number of jobs is expanding. He notes that growth in the state's labor force in recent years has come overwhelmingly from what he calls ALANA workers (African, Latino, Asian and Native American), with only a small increase in new white workers. At the same time, he points out, these ALANA communities have experienced an economic squeeze in recent years, reflected in a significant decline in their economic assets.

Despite this squeeze, he asserts that the ALANA communities continued to fuel the economic engine in Minnesota. He believes Minnesotans must start viewing the ALANA population as an asset to the state, rather than as a deficit or a problem.

He discusses the importance of improving the classroom-learning environment in schools and suggests giving tax credits to parents who are actively involved in their children's schools. And he believes that the people of North Minneapolis should take charge of their own destiny and create their own economic development strategies.

Linked here and to the notes of the discussion with Corrie is his recent paper suggesting strategies and specific policy recommendations for increasing the economic assets of the ALANA communities in Minnesota.

For the complete interview summary see: Corrie interview

Response Summary: Readers rated these statements about the topic and about points discussed during the meeting, on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

1. Topic is of value. The interview summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

2. Further study warranted. It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

3. Policy elites ignore minority growth. The dominant European-descendant policy elites of Minnesota are ignoring the reality that virtually all of Minnesota's recent labor force growth has occurred in the state's minority communities.

4. Treat minorities as assets. Minnesota's economic strength cannot be sustained unless the state's minority populations are treated as assets, not liabilities.

5. Focus on smaller businesses. The state's economic development investments are misplaced if they are structured predominantly to benefit organizations with big bureaucracies, rather than to help individuals start home-based and other small businesses.

6. Communities must take responsibility. Communities need to take responsibility for their own economic development opportunities, because the state government canít effectively impose economic development from the outside.

7. State should make greater commitment to education But the state should focus on its most effective means of economic development in making a far greater commitment to education, particularly in math and science.

8. Use tax credits to spur parental involvement. Because developing a strong motivation to learn is critical to educational achievement, state tax credits ought to be available to encourage parents to be more active in their children's education.

Individual Responses:

Bob Brown (7.5) (10) (5) (10) (10) (10) (5) (7.5)
3. Policy elites ignore minority growth. So-called policy elites may know more than what is implied here, but they need to better help educate their constituencies as to changing demographics and the implications of those changes.

7. State should make greater commitment to education. Money commitment is already good - priorities need to be examined.

8. Use tax credits to spur parental involvement. Tax credits for education are helpful if there is adequate educational/vocational counseling, particularly for low-income and diverse families where the parents have little or no experience with postsecondary education.

General Comment: Stop treating "Minorities" as a monolithic bloc. Each group and subgroup has its own strengths, weaknesses, needs and culture.

Anonymous (10) (10) (5) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (5)
2. Further study warranted. Perspectives on economic, equity issues and racial justice are of great relevance.

4. Treat minorities as assets. Racism affects economics.

Vici Oshiro (7.5) (7.5) (5) (10) (5) (2.5) (7.5) (2.5)
3. Policy elites ignore minority growth. I think the "policy elites" are aware of the problem, but unsure what to do about it. And not all the white community is in great shape either. Just ask those who are still unemployed even though white and capable.

5. Focus on smaller businesses. All need to participate.

6. Communities must take responsibility. Communities and state and individuals need to take responsibility.

7. State should make greater commitment to education. Commitment to education is essential and STEM is important. But so are many other elements including housing, transportation, arts, culture and more. And if we want to improve public school education, ask the teachers to design improvements and pay them more. We still pay too little for very important human service jobs of many kinds.

8. Use tax credits to spur parental involvement. Most parents have the motivation. Do they have the resources including time and energy?

Greg Marcus (7.5) (7.5) (2.5) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (10)
3. Policy elites ignore minority growth. While it is true that legislators generally would benefit from greater demographic awareness, the use of phrases or ideas like "dominant European-descendant policy elites" is not helpful or true. Votes are votes regardless of the color of ballot-caster. Legislators are not ignoring these larger groups or concepts. They are struggling to effectively craft legislation that honors the idea that all men/women are created equal. And, given that Minnesota imposes many mandates on those who would contract with the state (prevailing wage, various reports, etc.), it is very difficult for small business owners of all stripes to participate.

4. Treat minorities as assets. It cannot be sustained well. Rather the economy could expand while greater portions of the economy are driven by smaller portions of the populace.

6. Communities must take responsibility. Yes, though state and local government have a role in reducing legal barriers (prevailing wage etc.).

7. State should make greater commitment to education. The state already invests generously in education. The state needs to empower parents and employers to cause schools to make a greater commitment to math and science.

8. Use tax credits to spur parental involvement. Yes. And, one of the most important ways to allow/encourage such activity is to extend it to the choice in schools. Parents ought to be able to pick the school of their choice for their child. Universal school choice.

Frank Long (7.5) (7.5) (2.5) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (2.5) (10)
2. Further study warranted. From small business owners and people who have worked their way up within the "system". Academics seem to buy into the privileged class by race narrative and contend that giving opportunities, i.e., "give them a place to fish" is more effective than "I showed you how to fish, they are over there, better get them before someone beats you to it." That is more effective when dealing with human nature, and helps build ambition and appreciation for achievement.

3. Policy elites ignore minority growth. Just the mindset that the "European-descendant policy elites" are stopping the minority workforce from succeeding is selling those same minority community's abilities short. There are many programs in place to help small business start-ups, many that are only available to minorities. As to the contention that "virtually all of Minnesota's recent labor force growth has occurred in the state's minority communities", if that data is true, it could very well be attributed to the influx of immigration and people who came here to aspire to reach the American dream, people depending on their ambition and work ethic and virtually unaware of those dastardly elites holding them back.

4. Treat minorities as assets. As long as they are assets in the workforce they certainly should be counted as such. If by percentage of population and as a "group" there is not as high a rate of workforce participation, all causes, including the necessity to work, or lack thereof, should be seriously considered as part of the problem. Common sense dictates that some people will do as much as they need to and no more. This is a human trait, not a racial one.

6. Communities must take responsibility. Local government should do what they can, easing local tax and regulation to support business. They should not use taxpayer funds to subsidize people who cannot start or sustain a business without that crutch. Local Chamber of Commerce organizations can by very helpful at the local level in figuring if your business model is a fit for the community and help gauge your chance of success.

7. State should make greater commitment to education. Education should be more geared to careers outside academia. If we want more engineering, math, science and medical degrees, perhaps the education systems could shift their ample funding to offset some of the costs so these vocations are a more attractive "deal" to students looking at career choices vs. student debt.

8. Use tax credits to spur parental involvement. As long as it can be independently verified, with substantial sanctions if there is fraud by the principle and/or the approving authority.

Denny Carlson (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5)
3. Policy elites ignore minority growth. I think the awareness is building as more job openings, at all levels, are getting less and less applicants. For example, most school districts are having a very difficult time finding substitute teachers.

4. Treat minorities as assets. If they are needed for jobs, they will be an asset. If they don't have the skills or training, they will be viewed as a deficit and a drain on society by many. For sure, our public schools and community colleges will be blamed for not preparing students well enough.

5. Focus on smaller businesses. I think small businesses really struggle to be heard at all; even through local Chambers of Commerce, they get drowned out by the political pressures of big business.

6. Communities must take responsibility. Very wise comments by Dr. Corrie on this topic. I think handouts without responsibility and accountability are counterproductive (I panicked a little bit at this pointóI fear I am starting to sound like a Republican).

7. State should make greater commitment to education. I believe our state policymakers are way too concerned about winning the next election and having their party in power. They think in two and four-year "political" strategies. When we need "education and work force" strategies for the next few decades we remain in serious trouble.

8. Use tax credits to spur parental involvement. I think it is worth a try. Although, it does seem a shame to have to reward parents to be involved in their own child's education. The framing of the legislation will be critical. I can already hear the naysayers decrying the "paying of parents to be parents." They already get tax credits as parents; maybe some responsibility could be built in to the credit and then raise the amount. If it can be re-framed as investing in the community to focus on educational needs of immigrant and minority children it might have a better chance. I also think we need to look beyond just the immediate parents for help and consider grandparents, retirees (including retired teachers), trained volunteers, and others (including young adults and student mentors) for their help in meeting this huge need, particularly in urban cities.

General Comment: I would think Governor Dayton would want to form an on-going bi-partisan statewide committee (not a short-term task force) on this topic. The leadership of the business community in Minnesota should engage as well. Rather than continually criticizing our educational institutions for Minnesota's achievement gap, they could be at the table with Dr. Corrie and others working on short-term and long-range strategies to make sure they will build the "World's Best Work Force." The great economic success Minnesota has enjoyed in the Midwest is clearly in jeopardy if this topic (and reality of the consequences) is not addressed.

Chuck Lutz (9) (8) (8) (9) (8) (7) (8) (9)

Wayne Jennings (8) (9) (7) (8) (6) (6) (7) (7)
I keep hearing of companies that have open positions they canít fill for lack of qualified applicants. We must educate all students to higher levels of competence.


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