MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings' new $975 million stadium is expected to bring construction jobs to parts of Minneapolis hit hardest by poverty and unemployment.
Elected officials, business owners and civic leaders who backed the stadium are hoping it will be a boon to the jobless, including the 22 percent of black workers who were counted as unemployed as recently as last year, Minnesota Public Radio reported Tuesday. That was nearly triple Minnesota's overall jobless rate. There may be nowhere that unemployment was as keenly felt as in north Minneapolis, where jobs disappeared twice as fast as in the rest of the city.
The stadium legislation incorporates the city's own 32 percent minority and women hiring goals for real estate development projects and makes hiring from Minneapolis neighborhoods with the highest unemployment and poverty rates a priority.
The project is expected to generate an estimated 7,500 construction jobs between when work begins on the site of the current Metrodome and the stadium opens in 2016. The Summit Academy OIC vocational training program is already gearing up to send workers to the stadium site.
"It's the biggest thing to come along in our lifetime," said Louis King, its president and CEO. "It comes along at a time when we're recognizing how big the problem is in north Minneapolis. People like Mayor (R.T.) Rybak, (Democratic Rep.) Bobby Joe Champion, took extreme political risks to bring this project home."
King's school is expected to train more than 250 people this year on basic construction techniques, blueprint reading, heavy equipment operation and other skills.
"Our construction workers get about 20, 30, 35 thousand (dollars)," King said. "We have about a 75-percent placement rate."
Shawn Wright is a graduate of that program. The north Minneapolis construction worker doesn't have a job right now, but he was on the crew that installed many of the signs at the new Target Field baseball stadium, including the iconic bulls-eye logo behind home plate.
"This is my pride and joy here. This is the bull's-eye at Target Field," Wright said pointing at the giant red and white logo.
Target Field was Wright's first construction job and it nearly doubled his pay. It led to more work, including roofing and structural repairs after last year's tornado in north Minneapolis. Now, Wright is training for a hazardous materials certification and even higher paying work. He expects to help build the Vikings' new home.
City Council member Don Samuels, who represents north Minneapolis, said he voted in favor of the stadium because of the employment prospects it presents for his constituents.
"We've got African-American young people who are not getting jobs with a high school education, because their industries are gone," Samuels said. "We're going to get them some jobs, and they're going to have careers. And they're going to move up with their families."
Hiring goals for other major projects have failed to deliver. The state set aside work for minorities and women on the rebuild of Interstate 494 and the Hiawatha light rail line but came under federal investigation for not measuring up. And as the stadium was debated at the Capitol, critics charged that it's just a short-term — and expensive — jobs program.
But Michael McHugh said the benefits could go beyond the stadium project itself. McHugh is a member of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and a former director of the Upper Midwest chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors. He said big construction projects offer one-of-a-kind opportunities because of their accessibility and the variety of skills and positions they require.
"The stadiums and larger projects really open a lot of doors for women and minority workforce," he said.