October 3, 2013, was a historic day for the state of Minnesota. Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Equity Manager Alex Tittle made a major announcement: for the first time ever, the state would contract with community-based organizations to ensure a large-scale development would meet its hiring goals for people of color. That development? The $975 million Vikings stadium.
This transformative partnership, called the Employment Assistance Firm (EAF), was the brainchild of HIRE Minnesota as part of the Stadium Equity Plan we advocated for. We knew that community-based organizations understand the assets of and the barriers facing communities of color the best, and were best positioned to help the state and the prime contractors achieve their hiring goals. The state agreed to invest $700,000 in the EAF, which is actually a coalition of 17 organizations representing diverse sectors and communities. Prime contractor Mortenson Construction committed an additional $100,000 to strengthen the coalition’s efforts.
The EAF was an important step in ensuring the state meets hiring goals for women, people of color and veterans. Those goals increased significantly since the last time a project of this scale was taken on–Mortenson Construction will be expected to hire 32 percent people of color and 6 percent women. The EAF is responsible for conducting outreach and training to ensure those goals are met, developing relationships with the trades to place trainees, and recruiting a pool of trained workers into the project. If the goals are met, this work could secure up to $80 million in wages for people of color based on job-creation projections.
“We are committed to having the people of Minnesota build the ‘People’s Stadium’,” said Louis King, president of Summit Academy OIC and founder of HIRE Minnesota. “We applaud the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority for supporting this process.”
While the creation of the EAF is groundbreaking in itself, HIRE Minnesota believes that hiring outcomes will be most improved because of the strong, long-term relationships being built between community-based groups and other organizations within the construction workforce system. Historically, community groups have received information about hiring performance after a project is completed, when there was no hope of influencing a better outcome. HIRE Minnesota’s goal within this new dynamic is to place women and people of color in construction careers that are operating in a cohesive system, where there’s understanding and accountability among all the responsible parties. This change could allow progress made on the Vikings project to live beyond the stadium, creating a more diverse workforce for future public infrastructure projects in the region.