Smaller Target? Minneapolis merchants say downtown will be OK

Target headquarters in downtown Minneapolis
Target headquarters in downtown Minneapolis.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News

News this week that Target Corp. expects to slash thousands of jobs from its Minneapolis headquarters over the next two years triggered some instant worries about the potential economic hit on downtown.

Target is downtown's largest employer and the company won't say yet how many jobs will be lost.

Downtown, however, says it will be fine. While the cuts may bring some temporary pain, the Minneapolis economy has enough growth to tough it out, observers say.

"We do get a lot of business from them with lunch and happy hour, but at the same time we're on Nicollet Avenue. We're in downtown Minneapolis," said Ben D'Amico, general manager of Masa, an upscale Mexican restaurant on Target Plaza's ground floor. "There are a lot of other businesses, so we tend to not necessarily worry about that."

D'Amico has good reasons to be calm. Downtown Minneapolis has 38,909 residents, a number that could grow as new apartment buildings go up. And while Target is a major employer in the area — about 10,000 work in its downtown headquarters — the retail giant accounts for just 6 percent of the downtown workforce.

Nearly 159,000 people worked downtown in 2013, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. While businesses and jobs come and go, the net trends are positive. Downtown Minneapolis has seen net private-sector employment increase every year since the end of the recession.

"Do I expect downtown Minneapolis to fall off the cliff tomorrow? I don't," said Jeanne Boeh, who teaches economics at Augsburg College. "I think that the growth would be less than it could be without Target laying off people."

Restaurants and other businesses in the city's commercial core could see a short-term downturn, she said. The Target cuts, whatever the total, will not help the area's middling employment growth, Boeh added.

Unemployment in the Twin Cities remains far below the national average, so former Target workers have more opportunities here than they would elsewhere, said Michael Langley, CEO of the economic development group Greater MSP.

Langley says the impact of the cuts on individuals losing their jobs should not be minimized. But he believes Target's coming cuts will be more than offset by growth elsewhere in the area.

He pointed to growth in housing in the city's core and to the east end of downtown, where the paint company Valspar is remaking its headquarters. Besides that, Wells Fargo is planning to move 5,000 employees into two office towers in the $400 million Downtown East development being built near the new Minnesota Vikings stadium that's set to open next year.

"As we look at our prospects regionally and in the city of Minneapolis, they're very strong," he said "I think we altogether will weather this."

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