Our entire team at Growth & Justice is energized and deeply grateful for the wisdom and strong commitment to racial and economic justice that we witnessed among about 150 participants at our conference last week, held June 27-29 at the Upper Sioux Community’s Prairie’s Edge Conference Center, near Granite Falls. The event, “Thriving by Design: Rural & Urban Together,” was the first step in an effort to forge a new “One Minnesota Equity Blueprint” and healing our divisions: the rural-metro divide, racial injustice, overall economic inequality and environmental degradation. Along with our partners at OneMN.org, we’ve created a new Thriving by Design website to serve as a central clearinghouse for our process going forward. You’ll find PowerPoints, video of presentations, links to news media and a social media “wall.’’ We will continue adding to the site as we work in coming months toward creation of our Blueprint, which will serve as a comprehensive guide to policy-making and a framework for action for all Minnesotans who seek a more prosperous and inclusive state. Our groups and allied organizations will present the Blueprint to Minnesota’s new governor and new Legislature in early 2019 and we hope that it can serve as a template for constructive, non-partisan cooperation toward a more equitable economy over the next decade.
Our Thriving by Design conference and One Minnesota Equity Blueprint process is earning positive reviews from many quarters, and the conference landed on the front page of both the West Central Tribune (based in Willmar) and the Marshall Independent. Reporter Tom Cherveny of the Tribune captured the gist of the convening in this paragraph. “The numbers suggest that communities most welcoming of immigrants and people of color will be best able to meet labor needs in the future. Yet research by American Public Media in its Ground Level Survey project found that attitudes in rural areas were less welcoming than those in urban areas, even though the growing labor shortage is likely to impact rural areas with declining populations the hardest.’’ Reporter Deb Gau of the Independent focused on a presentation by Growth & Justice Research Director Kate Searls, showing the deep interdependence of the economies in Greater Minnesota and Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Evidence from many directions consistently shows that immigration is a long-term net benefit to our state and national economy. Business leaders and demographers agree that Minnesota’s workforce shortage can only be filled by continuing to attract newcomers to our state. There is also mounting evidence that even undocumented immigrants provide an immediate and long-term net benefit. Mary Jo Dudley, director of the Cornell Farmworker Program at Cornell University, describes in a recent article in the Conversation how undocumented workers have become vital to key sectors of agribusiness in northern and northeastern states. A MinnPost article earlier this year, summarized a comprehensive state report with a similar theme, and a finding that 10 percent of the state’s labor pool is now foreign-born.
Our Thriving by Design conference involved immersion in some of our state’s most complicated and serious issues, and so we greatly appreciated the levity provided by The Theater of Public Policy (T2P2) at a performance in Granite Falls on June 28. T2P2 has a talented and intelligent troupe, and was co-founded by Tane Danger, who is also a member of the Growth & Justice Board of Directors. Hard not to like their motto: “Using Comedy to Reframe Hard Thinky Stuff.’’ This month T2P2 is holding forth every Tuesday evening in St. Paul’s Amsterdam Bar & Grill on similarly weighty matters: declining religious affiliation among Millennials, the minimum wage debate in St. Paul, the legacy of St. Paul Saints owner Mike Veech, and a conversation with Melvin Carter, the city’s first black mayor.
“The vitality of our region and the strength of our rural economy depends on everyone being able to contribute, and it starts before birth. We need to ensure ALL our kids – our indigenous children, our seventh-generation immigrant children, and our first-generation immigrant children – get the best possible start to life…But importantly, we’re supporting ALL our southwest Minnesota kids because it’s simply the right thing to do.’’ – Diana Anderson, President/CEO of the Southwest Minnesota Initiative Foundation, in welcoming remarks to Thriving by Design Conference at Upper Sioux Commuinty on June 28.