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African Development Council looks beyond the metro area to help immigrants

Because immigrants are settling in areas outside of the Twin Cities, the African Development Council (ADC) decided to begin reaching out beyond its Minneapolis offices.

"The pattern of movement with African immigrants is changing," says Hussein Samatar, ADC's Executive Director. "They were coming to the Cities in the beginning, but gradually, they've been moving outside the metro for job opportunities or housing, or to have more space for their children."

In order to offer assistance to those in other cities, the ADC recently purchased a building in Willmar to serve as a regional satellite office, with plans to open in mid-September. A new location in Rochester opened in June to serve those in that region of the state. Samatar notes that in downtown Willmar, more than 40 percent of businesses are owned by African or Latino people.

ADC was established in 2003, with its first major funding and full-time staff positions coming just a year later. The group believes that immigrant groups help to revitalize neglected neighborhoods, boost the economy through new businesses, and increase home ownership. The organization focuses on these areas with strategic lending, housing assistance, and other services.

According to a report by The Minneapolis Foundation, about 13 percent of the state's foreign-born residents are from Africa--a higher percentage than in any other U.S. state. Most Africans have come to Minnesota from Somalia, Liberia, and the Sudan, according to the ADC, but there's an increasing influx from Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Eritrea as well.

ADC formed to fill a gap that some saw with mainstream development corporations and the complex needs of African immigrants.

Just as the group is expanding northward and southward outside the metro, it got some help itself recently, when it garnered a two-year grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation. Samatar points out that Bremer's founder was a German immigrant, who came to the U.S at a different time, but faced many of the same business and housing issues that still challenge immigrants today.

"We feel that there are so many opportunities where we can provide services, and the grant will help us to keep expanding and serving more people," says Samatar. "We're always seeing where we can fill in gaps and provide assistance."

Source: Hussein Samatar, African Development Council
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

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