Growth & Justice President Jane Leonard was featured, along with her twin sister Karin Sonneman, who is the Winona County Attorney, as a pair of high-achieving leaders in public service, in the latest edition of the Minnesota Women’s Press. The article notes that the Leonard twins moved to Washington D.C. at the age of four, when their father was named a top aide to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman (also a former Minnesota governor, he served with distinction under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson). From the article: “Sonneman and Leonard were encouraged in their ambitions by their family, and grew up during a time of progress for gender equality in this country, particularly with the advent of Title IX.’’ The article quotes Jane: “From the get-go, we were surrounded by people in public service. There was no question in my mind that my job was going to be about service and trying to improve things.’’
According to a new Minnesota Budget Project analysis, proposed changes to “federal charge’’ rules for immigrants “will make it harder for New Americans on their path to citizenship…This draft rule judges the value of New Americans by how much money they have, rather than how they live their lives and contribute to their communities.’’ MBP notes that “people often move to the United States in search of greater economic opportunity, but the rule sends the message that only New Americans who already have money and resources are welcome.’’ Meanwhile, the Star Tribune reports that some 70,000 current Minnesota residents could be affected by the proposal. To avoid losing legal status or deportation, advocates for immigrant families fear that they will be less likely to seek preventive medical care, get checkups for their children, find safe housing, or buy nutritious food. The article features the story of a successful Chinese business analyst living in Cottage Grove, who fears the new rules will prevent him from bringing his mother to Minnesota and reuniting his family. In addition to obvious humanitarian concerns, our state’s conscientious private-sector leaders are warning loudly and clearly that anti-immigrant policy is bad for business, immediately and in the long run. (See next item.)
Growth & Justice has often found common ground with Minnesota’s business leaders, particularly on the need for erasing racial disparities in education and workforce training, on climate action, and on investing in transit and other physical infrastructure. One of the leaders we most respect on these issues is Bill Blazar, senior vice president of public affairs and business development for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. He is nearing retirement and was profiled recently in the Star Tribune by Lori Sturdevant, who praises Blazar for making the business case for welcoming immigrants. In presentations around the state and particularly in Greater Minnesota, Blazar presents statistics like these: About 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies in Minnesota were either started by immigrants or their children. A 2014 tally found that more than 16,000 immigrants are employed in businesses of their own making. Six percent of all Minnesota businesses are immigrant-owned, employing more than 60,000 Minnesotans. Nearly 1 out of 4 workers in Minnesota’s medical-equipment and computer industries in 2014 were foreign-born. Immigrants often need taxpayer support initially, “but once they get settled, they are an asset this state needs badly,” Blazar told Sturdevant. “They are often bilingual. They are familiar with countries in which a middle class is emerging — places that are potential new markets for Minnesota products.”
Growth & Justice and our partner OneMn.org are assembling a comprehensive policy blueprint that will move Minnesota toward a more equitable and inclusive prosperity, and a more welcoming state. We need your help! Convene with those in your community (however you define community is up to you) to dive into a deeper conversation about equitable growth in Minnesota, and provide input for the Blueprint. Check out our Thriving by Design website for further information, such as Community Meeting Host training and tools. Call or e-mail Sarah Leistico, Policy & Outreach Manager, for guidance and further details. (firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-917-6037 ext. 4). Our team will work with you to secure a location and help recruit attendees if needed. Click here to sign up and host a conversation today!
Growth & Justice is on the move this fall, building a new public policy blueprint that will push our state toward a more equitable prosperity and climate action. And we’ve literally moved too, to accommodate our expanding work and staff. We invite you to learn more about our ambitious new initiatives on October 30, anytime from 4 to 8 p.m., at an Open House in our new offices. We’ll provide refreshments, including wine and beer and light hors douevres. You will meet new President Jane Leonard, honor the “semi-retired” Dane Smith (now our Senior Fellow and President Emeritus), and recognize the contributions of outgoing Board Chair, Kim Lowe. We’ll put on a very brief program every half hour starting at 4:30, to catch you up with G & J’s audacious “Thriving by Design’’ project in partnership with OneMN.org and our plans to produce a “One Minnesota Equity Blueprint” for policy-makers and community leaders. G & J’s new and larger office is one floor up from our old one, at 970 Raymond Ave, St. Paul 55114 – Suite 201. Please RSVP via Eventbrite. (And here’s a map)
Quote: “There isn’t a company that I visit that doesn’t have immigrant workers.” Bill Blazar, retiring senior vice president of public affairs and business development for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, in Star Tribune column cited above.