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Spinning Stories connects bicyclists with TC storytellers

The third edition of Spinning Stories, a bi-monthly “place-based storytelling series” that transports cyclists to its stories’ settings, takes place Saturday, September 27. Departing from Northeast Minneapolis’ Recovery Bike Shop at noon, the free and open-to-the-public event features three yarns from three notable Twin Cities storytellers: Amy Salloway, Javier Morillo-Alicea and Heidi Arneson.
According to a release from Spinning Stories, the event covers up to 15 miles at a languid “muppet pace,” says organizer Brian Fanelli. “We’re only as fast as the slowest rider.”
The three storytellers all have deep connections and street cred in the Twin Cities. Salloway is the founder of Rock Star Storytellers and Awkward Moments Productions, among other groups, and has previously won the SlamMN! and Moth slam events. Morillo-Alicea, who is president of the Service Employees International Union’s Local 26 by day, has won two Moth awards. Arneson produces one-woman plays that explore life in the Upper Midwest, and has garnered recognition from TC Daily Planet and members of the local comedy and storytelling communities.
Fanelli is keeping the subject matter of the stories close to the vest, but he will say that one features a particular parking space on University Avenue—a seemingly mundane setting for performance art. “It all comes back to this parking space,” he says. “Stories happen everywhere, even in the negative space of a parking lot.”
Previous editions of Spinning Stores have attracted about 40 people. The initiative got a big boost in July, with its participation in the city-wide, week-long Pedalopolis event.
Ongoing support from Recovery Bike Shop and Re-Cycle (Fanelli jointly serves as Community Involvement Coordinator) has been “hugely helpful” as well. He credits both shops’ broad customer base— “beginner cyclists, veteran cyclists and everyone in between, including storytellers who don’t think of themselves as bikers at all”—with attracting diverse participants to Spinning Stories.
He notes that “bike shops supporting the arts is becoming a thing,” citing this year’s Artcrank series and ongoing exhibitions at One on One Bicycle Studio in the North Loop.
Recovery and Re-Cycle have also provided mechanical support for Spinning Stories’ riders and unspecified “in-kind payments” to storytellers, says Fanelli, and will do so for this event as well. “Their support means I'm able to put more time into the project than I might otherwise be able to.”
Fanelli also credits participating storytellers with generating enthusiasm for Spinning Stories. “The community of storytellers in the Twin Cities is this beautiful, thriving ball of energy,” says Fanelli, “and it's really a wonderful thing to be so welcomed by that community.”
For all three events, he has engaged with “local storytelling producers” to find stories (and tellers). Salloway has been “overwhelmingly helpful with connecting to other storytellers,” says Fanelli. Previous Spinning Stories storytellers have included local luminaries like Paul Canada Nemeth, Taylor Tower and Tristan Jimerson.
Saturday’s edition will likely be the last outdoor Spinning Stories event of the year, but Fanelli is slated to teach a month-long storytelling unit in an ESL classroom at Roosevelt High School this winter. “No one is doing anything like this,” he says, “and I'm incredibly excited to bring story arts into the Minneapolis Public Schools.”
Outdoor rides will begin again in the spring, though Fanelli hasn’t yet set any dates. He does plan to incorporate the “youth voices” from his stint at Roosevelt into next year’s programming, though.

Social Innovation Lab plans "Deep Dive" for change agents

Social Innovation Lab, a Minneapolis-based social justice organization begun in partnership with the Bush Foundation, is holding its next "Leading Innovation Deep Dive" on September 15 and 16 at the Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center on Minneapolis's North Side. The event will be one of a dozen that the organization has held in the past two years, all focused on training local employers and employees to "solve complex social challenges."

Social Innovation Lab is the brainchild of Sam Grant and Michael Bischoff, two social justice veterans who have decades of combined experience. Grant currently runs two other nonprofits, AfroEco and Full Circle Community Institute. Bischoff is Clarity Foundation's lead consultant. Bo Thao-Urabe, who is the Senior Director of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and runs RedGreen Rivers (an initiative that supports female artisans), is assisting Grant and Bischoff.

The Deep Dive aims to unite decision makers and role players from diverse backgrounds to talk through—and implement, at least on an experimental level—solutions to the Twin Cities' most entrenched social issues, including broken food systems and racial disparities in housing and hiring. The goal is to customize solutions to fit the needs of individual organizations, creating a graduating class of "change agents" who can apply what they've uncovered to the problems they face.

The Deep Dive walks participants through every step of the change-seeking process, from "clarifying the intent of your team" to "build[ing] prototypes that develop practical solutions" and "scal[ing] innovation for social benefit," according to the Lab's website. Participants are guided by six global principles, from "bring[ing] an open heart, mind, and will" to "honor[ing" commitments."

The ambition and optimism of the Deep Dive—and Social Innovation Lab in general—is a conscious counterweight to the sometimes-overwhelming feeling of powerlessness that can afflict people who work for positive change.

"Everybody that we've talked to is saying...the same things," says Grant in a video posted to Social Innovation Lab's website. "As hard as they work, they feel like they're facing this dynamic...where they're getting one step forward and two steps back, and they can't really sense that what they're doing is leading to the deep change that they desire."

As Bischoff puts it, it's much easier—and more exciting—to work on overcoming these obstacles as part of a team, "instead of just trying harder by yourself." The end result: a "community of social innovators" that drives momentum for positive change and "close[s] all of these persistent gaps," says Grant.

Film in the City connects at-risk youth with creative potential

Earlier this summer, more than a dozen Minneapolis-St. Paul 17-21 year olds participated in the inaugural production of Film in the City, a Minnesota State Arts Board-funded initiative that connects at-risk youth with local filmmakers and front-of-the-camera talent. The original short, “A Common Manor,” was entirely written by Film in the City’s young participants, who also made up the majority of its cast. Highlights of the filming process were included in filmmaker Jeff Stonehouse’s contribution to One Day on Earth, with the edited production to be released in October.

Film in the City is the brainchild of Rich Reeder, a 30-year veteran of the film industry. He was inspired by a tragedy: While he was producing a documentary on the White Earth Reservation, a local high school student suddenly took his own life, shattering the community (and Reeder’s crew). As a filmmaking veteran, he saw the medium’s potential to boost self-esteem and commitment in at-risk youth.

Reeder and an assistant connected with six homeless youth organizations—Ain Dah Yung, Youthlink, Avenues NE, Face to Face/SafeZone, Full Cycle and Kulture Klub Collaborative—across the Twin Cities. Beginning in February of this year, 16 participants attended 12 workshops that covered everything from art and sound design to improvisation.

Filming took place over two weeks in June, at several locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul (the Midtown Farmers’ Market and private residences in St. Paul’s Summit-University and Midway neighborhoods among them). Local arts organizations including the Guthrie Theater and HDMG Studio & Production Center lent backdrops and equipment.

“A Common Manor” wrapped on June 25. There’s still plenty of editing and marketing work to be done before its release. But the project has already paid dividends: As a direct result of their work with Film in the City, says Reeder, at least eight participants have conducted internships or mentoring sessions with “professional Twin Cities’ directors, writers, cinematographers, lighting and sound specialists, makeup and wardrobe mentors.” Two have worked with Stonehouse on a commercial film shoot in Wisconsin.

Reeder also sees Film in the City, and projects like it, as critical for character-building and professional development. “These youth have made major strides in terms of self-esteem, collaboration with other youth and adults, learning the entire film[making] process and focusing…on specific aspects of the creative arts,” he says.

Reeder and crew plan to apply for the same Minnesota State Arts Board grant next year. The hope is that first-year veterans will actively mentor second-year participants, creating an artistic legacy among at-risk youth.

More ambitiously, Film in the City may soon export its concept to other cities. “Youth organization leaders in Seattle and San Francisco have already expressed interest in the concept,” says Reeder, noting that those cities’ famous writing and visual arts workshops for homeless youth haven’t yet been complemented by filmmaking initiatives.


ArtsLab report highlights capacity building, resiliency

ArtsMidwest, an Uptown-based arts organization that forms partnerships with artists and local art organizations throughout the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region, has released a major report to publicize the achievements of its ArtsLab subsidiary. Entitled “Capacity Building and Resilience: What Participants Learned Through ArtsLab,” the exhaustive report outlines the experience of eight organizations, including five from the Twin Cities.

According to Anne Romens, ArtsMidwest’s External Relations Manager, the report “offers key takeaways for nonprofit organizations seeking to build their resiliency and for grantmakers supporting the arts and culture sector.” The report itself is intended for “organizations looking to strengthen their adaptability, funders interested in the leadership qualities that support careful fiscal oversight, and…colleagues in other capacity building programs, both within and beyond the arts community.”

ArtsLab partners can enroll in the Peer Learning Community, an intensive, two-year “training and technical assistance program that brings diverse arts leaders together in a supportive, collaborative environment.” Components of the Peer Learning include mentorship assignments, monthly webinars, quarterly retreats, and training sessions that focus on financial management, strategic planning, community engagement and impact evaluation.

The five participating Twin Cities organizations had incisive feedback for ArtsLab—and the program’s future participants. During its first year working with ArtsLab, All My Relations Arts was evicted from its space at the Great Neighborhoods! Development Corporation, forcing the organization to hastily partner with the Native American Community Development Institute and seek funding assistance from ArtsLab. Over the subsequent two years, All My Relations found a new gallery and performance space that now anchors Franklin Avenue’s ascendant American Indian Cultural Corridor.

Mizna, a St. Paul organization that sponsors the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, nearly went bust when its former director resigned to pursue her writing career. ArtsLab helped the organization secure much-needed funding to carry it through. But Rabi’h Nahas, Mizna’s board director at the time, is even more appreciative of the guidance and experience of ArtsLab’s staff and educators.

In addition to the report and accompanying case studies, ArtsLab released a complementary video series on ArtsMidwest’s YouTube channel, including contributions from the studied organizations.

ArtsLab was founded in 1999 with grants from six funding partners, including the Bush Foundation. According to its website, the initiative aims to “support the acquisition of new skills, tools, and habits [that enable] navigation in a constantly changing environment” through “a highly participatory process.” It’s permanently staffed by Program Director Sharon Rodning Bash, Program Manager Angela Keeton, and Program Assistant Emily Anderson, and supported by a national group of educators and arts leaders.


Corridors 2 Careers strengthens workforce development

Ramsey County’s successful Corridors 2 Careers pilot program—which connects economically disadvantaged residents of communities along the Green Line, including Frogtown, Summit-University and Cedar-Riverside, with workforce training resources and employers in the area—already has several notable successes.

According to the program’s exit report, more than 1,400 residents of Green Line neighborhoods participated in the initiative, and nearly 90 percent had no previous knowledge of workforce resources in the area. As a direct result of their participation, 65 local residents found gainful employment and an additional 47 enrolled in basic or continuing education classes.

The pilot project also encouraged local job applicants to obtain—and local employers to recognize—the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate, “a portable credential that demonstrates achievement and a certain level of workplace employability skills,” according to ACT. The public-private partnership between Ramsey County and Goodwill-Easter Seals will continue to push this certification.

Of the five-dozen employers that participated in the pilot project, more than half were unaware about local workforce development resources that connect prospective employees with willing employees in transit-served areas. At least eight hired Corridors 2 Careers participants.

Now, the project has blossomed into a larger partnership between Ramsey County Workforce Solutions, Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board and Goodwill-Easter Seals of Minnesota. At least nine workforce development organizations have already committed to support the partnership, which aims to increase the “alignment of workforce needs between the residents and employers” in the area, according to the press release announcing the partnership.

The Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board’s Alignment and Integration Committees will coordinate the activities of the participating organizations, including Goodwill-Easter Seals, which provides GED tutoring, job-specific skills training and job placement services to individuals who have been chronically unemployed, recently incarcerated, afflicted by homelessness, or who struggle with alcohol or chemical dependency.

Going forward, Corridors 2 Careers aims to connect at least 400 Green Line residents with job search assistance, and place at least 80 percent of those participants in entry-level jobs or job training programs. The goal is a “location-efficient economic development strategy” that encourages local employers to be more receptive to diverse residents’ cultural needs, refer rejected applicants to workforce development agencies, and create new, industry-specific employer clusters along the transit-dense Green Line.

With Goodwill-Easter Seals and the Ramsey County organizations acting as pillars for the initiative, local employers will be able to directly tap C2C for willing, well-trained workers, connecting unemployed residents who urgently need work and employers that require specific skill sets.

Groundswell hosts artwork from MMAA/Galtier School collaboration

During a two-week residency, a group of 33 students from St. Paul’s Galtier Community School collaborated with the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA) on a multifaceted art project called CuratorKids. The 4th and 5th grade students’ artworks will be exhibited at Groundswell, a nearby coffee shop, from Dec. 16 through Jan. 19. In the spring of 2014, the childrens' artwork will also be exhibited by MMAA.    

MMAA developed CuratorKids to address “the shortage of art education in our public schools by offering a program that brings art and practicing artists directly to the kids,” MMAA  materials state.

Through the program, students examined a handful of artworks from the museum’s collection, according to Heidi Swanson,  technology integration specialist at Galtier. Students then wrote poems about the museum pieces. The following week, students responded to the artwork in a different way -- by making mixed-media collages. In their collages, Swanson says, "They made artistic choices relating to color, objects, and emotion.”   

Diana Johnson, a consultant to the program, says the museum pieces became “source material" for the students. “These kids really were responding emotionally and aesthetically" to the museum works, she says, which they "turned into their own work."

After the residency wrapped up, the students recorded podcasts of their poems and videos of their collages. Their poems can be listened to online here.  

Johnson hopes the project helps the students gain confidence in artmaking, as well as in academic subjects. The school hasn’t had an art program for a number of years. But CuratorKids shows students that “they can do things they didn’t know they could," she says. "If they stick with it, they can surprise themselves and see that the world around them cares and is interested in them."   

As if in response to that sentiment, a group of school volunteers pitched in $300 to frame the collages for the coffee shop exhibit, according to Swanson. At Groundswell, the students’ recordings will be accessible online via QR codes that can be scanned by smartphones.  

Swanson hopes the residency inspires students’ ongoing creativity. Through programs like CuratorKids, she says, "We hope to build a bridge to our community and create opportunities for our students to share their successes beyond the school walls." 

Source: Heidi Swanson, technology integration specialist, Galtier Community School
Writer: Anna Pratt 

Visit Saint Paul tweaks wedding site for same sex marriages

Right after Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize same sex marriage, St. Paul updated its popular wedding website to reflect the change.
Online resource IDoSaintPaul.com, put together by the city's convention and visitors bureau, Visit Saint Paul, gives engaged couples information on getting married in the city, including an events calendar, restaurant and hotel listings, and suggestions for activities and recreation.
The site now includes photographs of same sex couples, as well as a profile of Reid Bordson and Paul Nolle, who plan to be the first gay couple to tie the knot at Como Park Conservatory. Also on the site is a new page about the Freedom to Marry Act, noting that "it is important for same sex couples to know they are welcomed in Saint Paul for their big day and that they, their family and friends will receive the same top level of service from our hospitality community that all wedding couples receive on their big day."
Visit Saint Paul spokesperson Adam Johnson notes that it was easy to make quick changes to the site, including tweaks to an online form for wedding planning. Since then, vendors have approached the bureau to offer specials for same sex weddings, and Johnson anticipates that the site will get even more interest in the near future.
"The Freedom to Marry Act opened up a whole new pool of people who want to get married, and we want them to know that Saint Paul would be a great place for that," Johnson says.
Source: Adam Johnson, Visit Saint Paul
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

September events: Minnesota Cup, Work/Life Expo, Blogger Conference, Food + Justice

Minnesota Cup Final Awards Event
September 6
University of Minnesota, McNamara Center
5:00pm - 7:30pm
One of the liveliest entrepreneurial competitions, the Minnesota Cup has been a source of innovation and fresh ideas since its founding. (Read about this year's finalists here.) In its final awards event, attendees will get to hear elevator pitches from the division winners and hear the announcement of the grand prize winner. The event promises to be an ideal networking opportunity for the state's entrepreneurial community.
Work/Life & Flexibility Expo
September 13
Minneapolis Marriott Southwest
8:30am - 4:30pm
$50 - $150, depending on registration type
As the economy recovers, engaging highly skilled talent will be crucial for all organizations, and employee retention will be vital. This conference offers insight and strategies for building a work environment that attracts the best talent and positions a company for future growth.
Minnesota Blogger Conference
September 22
Allina Health
Midtown Exchange Building, Minneapolis
9:00am - 5:00pm
The first Minnesota Blogger Conference, in 2010, was such a success that organizers decided to keep it rolling. The highly popular conference--tickets are released at strategic times, as for a rock concert--will feature speakers who've taken blogging to new levels, including turning their blogs into business opportunities. Last year's sessions also included insights on legal issues, writing topics, and video blogging.
Food + Justice = Democracy
September 24 - 26
Radisson Plaza Hotel
35 S. 7th St., Minneapolis
Ranges from $85 - $195 depending on registration type
A distinctive national meeting, this event brings together food-justice activists with the aim of pushing political leaders to prioritize a fair, just, and healthy food system. Instead of traditional breakout sessions, the meeting features "People's Assembly sessions," connecting attendees with fellow participants in order to craft elements of a national food-justice platform.

The BrandLab prepares teens for internships with work-ready training week

School outreach and scholarship program The BrandLab has been growing steadily since its inception in 2007, and this year, the organization is kicking off its summer season with a whole new offering: a work-ready training week.
Started by OLSON and expanded to include other agencies, The BrandLab creates opportunities in the marketing industry for students with diverse cultural and economic backgrounds (see The Line's previous coverage here).
This year, executive director Ellen Walthour was chatting with a 3M executive about wanting to broaden the initial training that's done when the students arrive. Since the participants range in age from 17 to 20, most haven't had a professional job and sometimes have trouble adjusting to a business environment.
3M offered to pay for a week of training, and that kicked off a flurry of networking and workshop development, with a range of topics planned. Students will learn about how to act at a business lunch, what to wear, how to write in a professional manner, what to expect in an informational interview, and how to brand themselves.
"It's been amazing to see how this has all come together," says Walthour. "People are so eager to help, and we have workshop leaders from several agencies in town."
The main goal, she adds, is to give the students confidence when they're walking into their 7-week internship. From there, they can learn about how to eventually stand out in a competitive job marketplace and compete against a large pool of talented professionals.
If all goes well, it's likely that The BrandLab will implement the week-long workshop again next year, and keep the business insights buzzing for its fortunate interns.
Source: Ellen Walthour, The BrandLab
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

New urban farm looks to Kickstarter for initial funding

Urban farming is experiencing a huge boom in the Twin Cities, and is expected to grow stronger in the near future. Community gardens, employer gardens, and mini-farmers'-markets are popping up everywhere, and more municipal initiatives are geared toward encouraging growth.
So it's not surprising that a major new farm could take root. Stone's Throw Urban Farm brings together seven farmers and 12 vacant lots in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, covering four acres altogether.
To get the necessary startup capital, the group just launched a Kickstarter campaign. One of the farmers, Alex Liebman, notes that they wanted to put themselves on the path of independence, where they didn't rely on external funding in order to run.
The farm will offer shares in its community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, and will sell at the Mill City Farmers Market, but it turned to Kickstarter for the funds needed for initial projects, like building a hoophouse that will house spring transplants.
"Our goal is to provide a financially viable source of employment, while also tackling bigger ecological issues," says Liebman. Vegetables and fruits are grown without chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides, and the farmers will hold tours and volunteer days so local residents can participate in the farm.
"There's a lot of coordination with this many sites, and so many people involved," Liebman notes. "But the benefits outweigh the challenges. There's a lot of excitement and great ideas happening right now."
Source: Alex Liebman, Stone's Throw Urban Farm
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

The Wedge gives nine food organizations a major boost

Just in time to kick off the International Year of Cooperatives, nine community organizations will get a bit more operating power thanks to the Minneapolis-based Wedge Co-op.
The natural food grocer, which has 15,000 members, recently announced the recipients of their annual Wedgeshare grant program: The Emergency Foodshelf Network, Youth Farm and Market Project, The Cornucopia Institute, Open Arms of Minnesota, Farmers Legal Action Group, Water Legacy, Minnesota Food Association, Gardening Matters, and Urban Baby.
Since 1997, Wedgeshare grants have been awarded to numerous community organizations, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding. The recipients are chosen by the grocer's members, giving them a strong voice in the process.
"Our members love that they can vote on this, and be involved," says Lindy Bannister, General Manager of The Wedge. "The recipients are always closely linked to our neighborhood, and that helps members feel connected to what's going on here."
The program started as a way for the co-op to give back to the community, and Bannister notes that it's grown into a very popular program.
"It's getting stronger every year, and the applications are becoming better in terms of detail and storytelling," she says. "I think people are more and more aware of the needs in the community; they're paying attention."
The grants are particularly notable this year, since the United Nations declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives, with the aim of celebrating the social and economic benefits of cooperative businesses.
Source: Lindy Bannister, The Wedge Co-op
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

A sunny outlook: for innovative local businesses, 2011 was not a slog but a fresh start

In the past year, the economy didn't rebound with as much bounce as anyone would have liked, but a few fascinating things are happening on the way to recovery: the Twin Cities business community seems to be getting closer, more creative, and in some ways, more relaxed. The past year has seemed less like a slog and more like a fresh start.
In covering the innovation and jobs beat for The Line, I've spoken to dozens of entrepreneurs, some CEOs of large firms, and quite a few non-profit folks, and the trends are the same across every sector. The recession delivered a blow, certainly, but rather than going right back to business-as-usual, many companies here are seeing success through different measures. They brag about flex time for employees, community-based projects, and buying locally. It's as if the economic storms brought many enterprises under the same roof, and now they've learned that rather than survive independently, they're better off thriving together.

An Incubator Boomlet
For example, look toward the business incubator boomlet, and the wealth of services for entrepreneurs, like CoCo, WorkAround, MOJO Minnesota, the Economic Gardening Network, Homegrown Business Development Center, Minnesota High Tech Association, and so many others. The University of Minnesota, in particular, is a powerhouse of advice and skill building. Even the engineering school is teaching its students how to play well together in a business setting. 
This level of closeness to each other has created a business community that supports new endeavors so enthusiastically. Look at our recent feature on Kindred Kitchen, an effort in North Minneapolis that supports food entrepreneurs, for just one example, but there are many others. A sampling of companies that got their start this year include Sophia, DogWonderful, BuyerCurious, Pashen, and CRAM.
Through strategic hiring and expansion of services and products, many companies are showing a sense of starting anew, even if they've been around for years. For instance, just look at Bulk Reef Supply, an aquarium supplies service that has done such tremendous growth through increased product offerings that it landed on the Inc. 5000 list.

Companies Chillaxin'
Finally, there's the relaxation factor. Business can always be a bit of a meat grinder at times, but as companies learned to operate lean and get creative, they started to identify different measures of success, like happiness. As Chris Trifilio, co-founder of Primordial Soup noted, "We don't want to be a 50-person firm. We want to keep going down the path we're on, because it's fun and we love it." That's a sentiment that I heard often this year, leading me to believe that if a company didn't start fresh in terms of operations, then maybe they did in terms of attitude.
In the year ahead, I predict that these trends will keep rolling strong, because they contribute to the health of the business community, and make the Twin Cities a strong and vital area. Happy, satisfied entrepreneurs and business owners are creating a business climate that's sweeping away the economic clouds of the recent past with something awfully close to a sunny outlook.

Elizabeth Millard, Innovation and Jobs Editor

December events: CIO Panel, LifeScience Alley, Business in Africa, Kindred Kitchen Food Show

CIO Panel
December 6
7:30--9:30 a.m.
Minnesota High Tech Association
Free for MHTA members, $85 for non-members
The annual CIO Panel at the MHTA is an educational forum aimed at addressing key technology issues, trends, and challenges that CIOs are facing. This year's panel includes Abdul Bengali of the Mayo Clinic, Joe Topinka of Red Wing Shoes, and Ranell Hamm of Patterson Companies.
LifeScience Alley Conference & Expo
December 7
Minneapolis Convention Center
From $70 - $525 depending on membership and different attendance options
Now in its 10th year, LifeScience Alley is a must-attend event for medical technology professionals from around the globe. Session topics cover finance, IT, sales and marketing, product development, research, and other issues.
Doing Business in Africa

December 7
Carlson School of Management
321 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis
Suite 2-206
This panel discussion about education and workforce development is being put on by the Carlson Global Institute of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, the Corporate Council on Africa, and Books for Africa. The panelists include Hussein Samatar of the African Development Center, Trevor Gunn of Medtronic, and Michelle Grogg of Cargill.
Kindred Kitchen Food Show and Buyers' Fair
December 15
6:30 p.m.
1200 W. Broadway, Minneapolis
Participants in Kindred Kitchen's food business incubator program have the opportunity to meet industry professionals, food retail buyers, and the general public as they showcase their delicious creations. 

Metropolitan Transportation Network sees steady growth and more hiring

When Ethiopian-born Tashitaa Tufaa lost his civil service position with the Minneapolis Housing Authority in 2003, he saw two possible directions: either go back to his former job as a bus driver, or take a leap of faith and start his own bus company instead.
Fortunately for himself and the 200 people he now employs, he took the entrepreneurial option.
Tufaa brought in family members to help run the business, Metropolitan Transportation Network, and began garnering contracts with public and private schools, steadily growing the Coon Rapids-based company over the years.
"We seem to grow faster every year," he says. "We stay on top of it by working day and night, and also by empowering our management team. They're responsible for big decisions, instead of everything coming from me. I think that builds trust."
With more contracts coming in and expansion into other communities like Crystal and St. Cloud, Tufaa expects to hire at least 50 more people in the next year. He also anticipates that buying more vehicles, broadening the current fleet of 300, and constructing a new building on a six-acre lot in Fridley should help in the effort.
"We're excited by the opportunities that we see ahead," says Tufaa. "We want to start providing public transportation in different cities, that's a major goal. In the meantime, we're just going to work hard and provide excellent service."
Source: Tashitaa Tufaa, Metropolitan Transportation Network
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Minneapolis mayor highlights success of green-jobs training program

Those looking for green jobs have a powerful resource in RENEW (Renewable Energy Networks Empowering Workers), a program that trains Minneapolis and St. Paul residents for green jobs and places them in living-wage positions.

Kicked off in April 2010, the program has already had nearly 600 participants, with 350 of them earning credentials in green-related fields, and 240 gaining employment as a result of the training.

The success of RENEW led Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak and Saint Paul Council Member Lee Helgen to highlight the program at a recent hiring fair, held at the Dunwoody College of Technology.

Funded by a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, RENEW is a unique program, thanks to its strong focus on green-economy skills, notes Cathy Polasky, Director of Economic Development for the City of Minneapolis.

"Having these type of credentials is important, because it allows employers to have a tangible measure of what a prospective employee knows," she says. Even some employers that are not usually recognized as green companies have been eager to talk to program participants, Polasky says. For example, Doubletree Hotels is very interested in those who have learned environmentally-friendly tactics for housekeeping and maintenance, which allow the hotel chain to cut down on water use and streamline its operations.

Seventy different training tracks are offered through RENEW, with 12 training entities partnering with the program. Community-based service providers are also part of the effort, helping to inform low-income workers of the opportunities provided by the program.

Although the program's funding was a one-time award, Polasky and others are hoping that the Feds will come out with "a sequel" to keep the training rolling along.

"There's been such remarkable success with this, that we're really hoping to keep it going," she says.

Source: Cathy Polasky, City of Minneapolis
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

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