Empowerment zone should build Black Business

 

According to Jonathan Palmer, Executive Director of Minneapolis’ Empowerment Zone, the Empowerment Zone consists of federally designated areas for which funds have been provided to improve the lives of the residents and businesses that serve them within those neighborhoods. "We have three sections of the Empowerment Zone. There is a Southside section, which runs along Lake Street, there is a Northside section, which runs along West Broadway and then, there is an Eastside, which runs along Central Avenue. According to Jonathan Palmer, Executive Director of Minneapolis’ Empowerment Zone, the Empowerment Zone consists of federally designated areas for which funds have been provided to improve the lives of the residents and businesses that serve them within those neighborhoods. "We have three sections of the Empowerment Zone. There is a Southside section, which runs along Lake Street, there is a Northside section, which runs along West Broadway and then, there is an Eastside, which runs along Central Avenue. The most commonly known program in the Empowerment Zone is the small grants initiative, which gives grants to non-profit organizations. Larger projects are bid out in Requests for Proposals. We did one last year along West Broadway of about a million Dollars," Palmer told the "Conversations with Al McFarlane Public Policy Forum" broadcast at North Community High School last week.

"One of the larger things that isn’t really noticed is tax incentives that businesses can get for hiring Empowerment Zone residents. The Empowerment Zone largely covers the Fifth Ward, the Third Ward, the Eighth Ward and the Sixth Ward. It also has some of Ward 2 and a little piece of Ward 1. So it is areas where there are federal funds as well as leveraging opportunities to work within the community."

Al Flowers, Zach Metoyer and Booker Hodges are members of the African American Alliance to monitor and challenge the effective use of the Empowerment Zone resources. "The Empowerment Zone in its present form hasn’t worked for the African American community. They (White businesses) get the money and we simply got the misery," said Flowers in the KMOJ-broadcast interview.

Metoyer charged, "The African American community has not benefited from the Empowerment Zone money. Crime is rising in our community due to lack of economic wellbeing of our people. We have housing projects that were funded, but have not shown direct benefit to the Empowerment Zone residents or other Empowerment Zone businesses. The Heritage Park, for example, provides rental housing, but there was no direct benefit to the residents. They received absolutely no subsidy."

"In the city’s application to the federal government to get the Empowerment Zone designation, the term "African American" was used five more times than any other racial group throughout the entire application. And never once, was it used in a positive manner. All the statistics in the application to the federal government were based on the conditions that African Americans were experiencing here in Minneapolis. If it wasn’t for the conditions of the African American community, the City of Minneapolis wouldn’t have received the Empowerment Zone designation," Hodges said.

He said since the City got the Empowerment Zone money in 1999, African Americans were not mentioned on any of the Board minutes until 2002. "The only business groups that were discussed were Somali, Native American and Hispanic. No African American businesses were included," he added.

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