MPR has reported labor data that ranked Minnesota's disparities in unemployment between whites and African-Americans and between whites and Latinos as the second-worst in the nation. Possible explanations included this region's worrisome educational achievement gaps -- the seventh worst in the nation, to be exact.
Health is another area of persistent racial and economic disparities. Where you live has important consequences for your health. As Paul Mattessich, executive director of Wilder Research, said in an MPR article late last year, "If you live in certain ZIP codes in the Twin Cities, you will live five, seven, or eight years less ... than people who live in other ZIP codes because of the different community factors."
Many people are concerned about Minnesota's lack of progress in closing racial gaps, particularly in the Twin Cities. Citizens want policies to be more fair. Business leaders tie our regional competitiveness to ending these disparities.
Many believe we should look more seriously at the role comprehensive community development can play.
If you still think of community development as affordable housing, think again. Twenty years of experience has taught us that housing is only one piece of the puzzle. Making sure residents in lower-income neighborhoods have a shot at prosperity also requires job training, employment opportunities, quality education, affordable transportation, access to a healthy environment and opportunities to build wealth.
While many programs and resources already exist, greater integration and coordination is needed. Integration is just common sense -- it's the way to make the sum greater than its parts. That's where comprehensive community development comes in.
Look at what's happened in south Minneapolis, where Allina partnered with a community-based nonprofit, the Cultural Wellness Center, to promote better health in the neighborhood surrounding the Abbott Northwestern Hospital. In the past year, a major community-driven listening process has taken place that's redefining what good health means to residents and the role that Allina and others can play.
Or look what the community-based nonprofit Emerge is doing to train and find jobs for north Minneapolis residents through a four-pronged approach to community development. Look at the East Side of St. Paul, where community developers and Lutheran Social Services turned the old Swedish Bank into a vibrant multicultural financial center. That historic building now houses a credit union and a Center for Working Families that offers coaching about finding jobs and building wealth.
At University and Dale in St. Paul, community developers and residents have transformed a corner once notorious for vice into a welcoming neighborhood gateway. Affordable family apartments and the Rondo Community Library both serve an array of cultures.
Across the street, a new mixed-use development -- Frogtown Square -- is under construction. It will feature commercial space for minority-owned businesses and senior housing. Earlier this year, local residents demanded and got three additional light rail stations to serve those who live and work there.
Successful examples of this kind of holistic approach to neighborhood revitalization are varied, widespread and working. Only by acknowledging connections among education, employment, health, transportation and housing can we ever hope to create equity across communities in this region. Closing gaps requires integration, alignment and community voice. When we're searching for strategies, we shouldn't overlook the power of comprehensive community development.
Andriana Abariotes is executive director of the Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which has invested more than $373 million and leveraged over $1.3 billion to benefit Twin Cities community development.