Bruce P. Corrie, Chai. News
About two decades ago I first heard Rev. Bill English and other leaders such as Al McFarlane and Dr. Mahmoud El Kati at Lucille’s Kitchen. They would constantly bring attention to the need for economic empowerment and development for African Americans in North Minneapolis. Two weeks ago, at a meeting of the African American Leaders Forum, I heard Rev. English list multi-million dollar development projects happening around the area where he used to meet with community leaders at Lucille’s Kitchen. With pride he talked about the African American economic renaissance occurring through various initiatives. One initiative was the groundbreaking of the new Thor Construction headquarters across the street.
It took the village to build Thor Construction and the village came out to celebrate with Richard Copeland and his team – from Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith, city and county leaders and neighbors. A common theme echoed by Ravi Norman and other leaders was – look at our communities as assets. Senator Bobby Champion whose dogged persistence has brought economic empowerment and wealth building to North Minneapolis also celebrated the economic renaissance.
I first met Richard Copeland about 15 years ago while chairing the Governor’s Working Group on Minority Business Development and we talked about the construction of the Xcel Energy Center which helped take Thor Construction to the next level. Over these years Copeland has worked hard to expand and grow his business. These days he will often say fondly and confidently, ‘Our time has come.” And it has surely come for Thor Construction in a beautiful and intentional way. A time to grow and a time to build the community. They chose to expand in the heart of North Minneapolis and the partnership that is involved with the construction are also the anchors that will help create economic opportunities and wealth creation in the area.
Ezell Jones, entrepreneur and long time champion for the need to aggregate economic interests in the ALANA communities offered a meaningful strategy for expanding the economic base in North Minneapolis, “Let’s start doing business with each other – business to business exchange is what will sustain economic growth and build wealth.”