BUILDING NEIGHBORHOOD ECONOMIES FROM WITHIN

I first met Mihailo “Mike” Temali, in the early ‘80s when he was getting a Masters of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. His professor, Calvin Bradford, had also played a role in my transition from an academic setting to community development.

In 1990, Western Bank, a long standing community leader in St. Paul, created Western Initiatives for Neighborhood Development (WIND), as a community development subsidiary to support local economic revitalization initiatives in core areas of poverty in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Mike was hired as their founding Chief Executive Officer. WIND subsequently evolved into the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC).

Last year, NDC celebrated 20 years of community revitalization under Mike’s leadership. Since May of 1993—in eight ethnic communities and 25 low-income neighborhoods of St. Paul, Minneapolis, and the Greater Twin Cities Area — NDC has built community support for creating, financing, and supporting resident-owned small businesses as a means of revitalizing inner city neighborhoods.

Initially offering only business training, NDC expanded its offerings to include small business financing, on-going business coaching, and real estate development. The demand for its programs has resulted in NDC more than doubling its staff, increasing its alumni services and adding new language skills services to support Hmong, Somali, Oromo (3rd largest language in Africa) and Spanish-speaking program participants.

In 20 years, NDC trained over 4,460 entrepreneurs in mostly low-income inner-city neighborhoods in a 20-week course. Over 500 of these alumni are currently in business; 82% are owners of color. Since 1993, NDC has also provided more than $11.5 million in small business loans and financing, more than 50,000 hours of business and technical assistance, and helped create over 3,700 jobs. These businesses are building neighborhood economies–from within. That’s NDC’s brand message.

I visited Mike earlier this month. I was asked to share with NDC staff how their on-going work has progressed from charges of banks redlining to connecting banks to reinvestment opportunities. We visited some of their successes and future projects.

Former Sears store now home to Midtown Global Market

Former Sears store now home to Midtown Global Market

NDC’s largest small business incubator is the 70,000 square foot Midtown Global Market (MGM), which opened in June 2006. NDC, along with three other non-profit partners, redeveloped a formerly vacant Sears complex in the heart of a low-income South Minneapolis community into an internationally themed public market featuring more than 40 independent small businesses selling fresh food, specialty grocery, prepared food, and gifts from around the world. The MGM has created more than 475 jobs since its inception and attracts over 3,000 visitors daily, with average monthly sales of over $500,000.

The intersection of University Avenue and Dale Street has been the backbone of Saint Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood dating back to the 1860s. The Frogtown Square project, which was completed in 2011, is the culmination of more than 15 years of effort by a partnership of four local non-profits.

Daily Diner at Frogtown Square

Daily Diner at Frogtown Square —“Changing Lives with a Side of Fries”

The project features 50 units of permanent, affordable senior housing on the second, third and fourth floors. The first floor with 11,700 square feet of commercial space is anchored by the Daily Diner, a social venture of the Union Gospel Mission assisting those hungry for a fresh start with jobs as they transition out of homelessness.

NDC has been active along University Avenue and the Central Corridor light-rail line (the Green Line), which opened this year, having helped businesses through the lengthy construction process with technical assistance. NDC now is formulating plans for another mixed-use project across the street from Frogtown Square with: 12,500 square feet for a co-location entrepreneurship hub; 15,000 square feet of health care related space; and 20,000 square feet of residential.

Mike is the author of “Community Economic Development Handbook” published in 2002 by Amherst Wilder Publishing. He defines four pivot points that are crucial to neighborhood economies:

1) Revitalizing your commercial district;
2) Developing microbusinesses;
3) Developing your community workforce; and
4) Growing good neighborhood jobs.

The Handbook was reviewed in 2003 by Robert Zdenek for SHELTERFORCE. Bob called it “a treasure chest of information and insights into the dynamic industry of community economic development, an art becoming more of a science.”

Mike dedicated his book to Gale Cincotta“From coast to coast, those of us in community development will never forget her leadership, her victories, and her inspiration.”

I must admit that I didn’t remember what I said 12 years ago about Mike’s book until I just looked it up: “This handbook will prove to be pivotal for developing your local assets to improve your local economy. Don’t just read it; do it!

Obviously, Mike has done just that for the Twin Cities, following his own pivotal recipe with great success. He has been the rock upon which many have built their futures. May he keep “chargin’ from the gate.”

I stood proud, I stood tall
High above it all
I still believed in my dreams

Twenty years now
Where’d they go?
Twenty years
I don’t know
Sit and I wonder sometimes
Where they’ve gone….

Like a rock, standin’ arrow straight
Like a rock, chargin’ from the gate
Like a rock, carryin’ the weight
Like a rock

— Bob Seger

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