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ENEWS: On Immigration, Gender Equity, and Workforce

Date Published: 07/19/2017

Author: Dane Smith

Immigrants Boosting Economy in Rural MN

Check out this hopeful and inspiring story about Isabel and Raul Castellano’s start-up of Chabelita’s Yummy Foods and Fruits, a new business in rural LeSueur Minnesota, enabled in part with assistance from the Region Nine Development Commission.  Research consistently shows that immigrants provide a net gain for Minnesota, from high rates of entrepreneurialism, to filling agribusiness workforce shortages, to adding youth and vitality to our communities.  Two particularly persuasive reports on these issues have been issued by the Minnesota Business Immigration Coalition and the University of Minnesota. The St. Paul Pioneer Press published a compelling op-ed making the case last week (see Quote of the Week below). As we work toward immigrant-friendly policy in our Minnesota Rural Equity Project, we will be highlighting these success stories, as well as challenges. We are increasingly impressed by how Minnesota’s regional development commissions are becoming instruments of progress for Greater Minnesota, finding innovative ways to improve their communities’ attractiveness, especially welcoming and empowering newcomers.

Office Serving Women Abolished

Among the many casualties in a largely disappointing 2017 legislative session (see our recent session overview) was the elimination of the 41-year-old Office on the Economic Status of Women.  This over-achieving one-person office, under the savvy leadership of Barbara Battiste, has produced valuable research and conducted extensive listening tours in Greater Minnesota.  The office has been particularly valuable highlighting struggles with transportation, child care, health care and other challenges facing all women statewide, including the stubborn underlying unfairness of pay equity.  We agree with women’s rights advocates cited in a Public News Service story and a MinnPost article that abolishing this office was a foolish mistake, and that the decision lacked transparency and public input.  We’ll fight in future years for restoration of this office and policies that erase gender inequalities.

Finding Consensus on the Workforce Mismatch

A recent Star Tribune commentary (Post-Secondary Education for Non-Dummies) echoes themes that Growth & Justice has emphasized in recent years about the shortage of skilled labor for good jobs that don’t require four-year degrees and the need to nudge more young people toward post-secondary skills and credentials that fill those demands.  Our own Star Tribune commentaries in recent years have focused on emerging Career Pathway models  and Workforce Equity as the state’s topmost policy priority.  Our story-telling about Career Pathways in a series for the MSPWin Coalition is helping influence decision-makers to invest more in these efforts to correct the workforce mismatch. The author of the latest commentary is Katherine Kersten, of the Center of the American Experiment, with which we sometimes disagree, including its recent attack on Twin Cities transit investment.  Our own workforce policy work puts stronger emphasis on racial equity than the CAE initiative does.  But we are always happy to find common ground with other policy groups and we’ll continue to seek consensus wherever we can.

Quote of the Week

“The future strength of our economy, across the state, depends on attracting and integrating immigrants into the workforce. Without a substantial increase in immigration, our state’s labor force will grow slowly, further exacerbating our challenge to fill jobs.” –– From St. Paul Pioneer Press July 13 op-ed, “Minnesota Needs Immigrants to Stay Competitive,” by Maura Donovan, executive director of the Office of University Economic Development at the University of Minnesota, and Bill Blazar, senior vice president of public affairs and business development at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

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