Celebrating Black History Month at DEED
February 24, 2023
Every February, our country lifts up the extraordinary achievements, contributions and history of the Black community in America. Here in Minnesota, Governor Walz issued a proclamation that recognizes the efforts and presence of generations of African Americans in Minnesota while recommitting to building a state that lives up to America's democratic ideals to create a better future for everyone. The spirit of Black History Month is imbued in DEED's mission to empower the growth of the Minnesota economy, for everyone.
More and more Black entrepreneurs are making their mark on Minnesota's economy every year. In fact, during the last decade the number of Black-owned businesses in Minnesota grew by one-third – that's far faster here than the rest of the country. These businesses employ nearly 28,000 Minnesotans.
Our Black neighbors, colleagues, and businesses offer talents, experiences and ideas that deeply enrich our community. This month we recognize those contributions, look at some of DEED's efforts to support Black Minnesotans and reaffirm our work to celebrate, support and amplify Black and African American communities across the state, every day of the year.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
In January, DEED was proud to serve as the host agency for the Governor's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, where the theme was Building Black Wealth. I was inspired by the artistic performances of local Black artists, as well as the keynote address by Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman, a phenomenally talented economist whose book "The Black Agenda" is a powerful read that I'd highly recommend. I found it both moving and inspiring – and very actionable.
Black Entrepreneurs Day at the Capitol
Earlier this month, we joined Sheletta Brundidge and a team of dynamic entrepreneurs for the first annual Black Entrepreneurs Day at the Capitol. It was a great opportunity to elevate Black entrepreneurs, advocate for legislative action to provide transformational resources and focus on empowering more Black business owners to launch, grow and succeed in Minnesota.
Mind, Body and Soul Convening
February also saw state commissioners highlight the Mind, Body and Soul – Convening the Black Community series. Beginning in April 2022, these working sessions brought voices of the Black community together to discuss the work being done on behalf of Black communities across the state. Each convening of Mind, Body and Soul provided presentations of research and programs specifically focused on Black residents, including Black business and workforce development.
What we heard at DEED through the Mind, Body and Soul series is that specific, targeted programs are important, as is integrating equity into everything DEED does. As such, key components of Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan's One Minnesota Budget focus on growing Black small businesses, investing in talent and ensuring Black communities receive funding for business development as a strategy to address economic inequalities.
It's imperative we do everything we can to support Black businesses, and to support members of the Black and African American community in securing jobs with family-sustaining wages. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor's budget is full of ways to do just that, including the following highlights in the DEED priorities included in the One Minnesota budget.
Small Business Proposals:
• $85 million in funding for the Main Street Economic Revitalization Fund to catalyze investments in business corridors – neighborhoods and main streets – where they can make a big difference for individual businesses and communities as a whole.
• $40 million for an Expanding Opportunity Fund to make it easier to get loans and capital to start businesses – especially in communities of color that are often shut out of lending opportunities.
• More than $17 million to bolster DEED's small business programs that entrepreneurs use every day for coaching, consultation and funding – our Small Business Navigation Program, Small Business Development Centers and Small Business Partnerships.
Workforce Development Proposals:
• Our Drive for 5 Workforce Fund will provide worker training for in-demand fields like technology, caring professions, education, manufacturing and trades.
• We're expanding our youth training programs to help young people prepare for good jobs – and build a pipeline of talented, ready-to-work employees for years to come.
• And we're investing $60 million to decrease disparities in our workforce. These worker training and employment services programs will help connect employers to employees who are traditionally overlooked – particularly Black Minnesotans, Indigenous people and people of color.
Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan have written a budget that builds on the critical work we've done over the past four years to support Minnesota's Black entrepreneurs, businesses and workers.
DEED's Racial Equity Commitments
As we celebrate Black History Month, we want to emphasize that DEED's commitment to Black and African American communities is year-round. We continue our focus on tackling racial disparities in everything we do.
Last year we established our five racial equity commitments, which include driving more funding to historically underserved populations; reforming government programs that have left out Black workers and business owners for too long; and launching concerted outreach and engagement programs for Black workers and Black-owned businesses across the state. That commitment remains fully entrenched with the new budget items and other workforce and economic development priorities we have in 2023.
Our agency believes we need to try different things if we're going to get different results. Thank you for helping hold us accountable for new approaches and solutions, and for being part of the ongoing work to support, fund and champion workers, founders and businesses in the Black and African American community.