Diversity hiring on the rise where new State goals apply

‘People’s Stadium’ reports ‘better than anticipated’ progress 

 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Second of a three-part story

 

Both the Minneapolis Civil Rights and St. Paul Human Rights Departments agreed in 2006 to accept the state workforce hiring construction goals set by the Minnesota Human Rights Department. At the time, the six-county Twin Cities metro area hiring goals were 11 percent people of color and six percent women, and 18 percent for “substantial” projects.

“I still think there’s some confusion on who they apply to,” said Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsay on the workforce hiring goals. “If you are talking about a state department or agency [such as] the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Authority, the Metropolitan Council, the Metropolitan Airport Commission and the Metropolitan Mosquito Board, then the workforce participation goals apply,” he explained.

Construction of new Vikings Stadium
Construction of new Vikings Stadium

The current hiring goals for construction projects in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties are 32 percent for Blacks and other people of color and six percent for women. “But if you are, for example, Anoka County or Carver County or Scott County or Washington and Dakota Count[ies], the workforce participation goals do not apply if those countries use [public] funds to build something,” noted Lindsay, adding that the goals for these counties are 22 percent people of color and six percent women.

Since he was named human rights commissioner, Lindsay points out, there’s been a “night-and-day difference” in how these workforce goals are being met. “There are several large projects which are hitting 32 percent, and there are a lot of projects where four years ago they might have been in the single-digits and are all now in double-digits.”

Asked why these goals aren’t statewide, Lindsay said, “Some of it has to do with a political question. Some had a negative view as it relates to diversity and inclusion-type programs.”

Billed as “The People’s Stadium,” the state’s largest publicly funded construction project located in downtown Minneapolis was recently reported to be almost one-third completed. According to the project’s Workforce Utilization Summary report for 6/27-7/25 this summer, 8 minorities and one woman were reported as hired during that one-month period from a pool of 142 minority and women workers available.

Blacks comprise the majority of workers of color among the total workforce at the Minnesota Vikings’ future home, reported Alex Tuttle of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA). “We’re trending” at 20 percent for women-owned businesses and almost 11 percent minority-owned businesses, and 38 percent in the workforce goals, he told the MSR in a recent interview from his office across the

Alex Tuttle Photos by Charles Hallman
Alex Tuttle
Photos by Charles Hallman

street from the “Minnesota Multi-Purpose Stadium.”

Total workforce participation (as distinct from business participation), measured in hours worked since construction began through June of this year, are reportedly 104,132.75 minority (37 percent of total) and 25,991.25 women (nine percent of total) — both exceeding the goals of 32 percent and six percent.

“All subcontracts come through my office,” says the MSFA equity director on his contract compliance monitoring responsibilities. “Mortensen [the stadium’s general contractor] can’t approve or move forward with the award of any contract without me seeing it. I don’t have anything else to do but give people a little bit of heat about this project.”

He vividly remembers that “everybody — from community to the construction industry, as well as architectural and engineering — were very reluctant to believe that the [workforce] goals were attainable.”

“The community thought it was possible, but the contractors wouldn’t be able to pull the trigger because they haven’t proven that on projects in the past. With the size of the project, people thought it wouldn’t be possible, but we’ve proven them wrong. Especially at this stage, this is exceedingly better than we anticipated,” he pointed out.

His previous experience at Summit Academy OIC and MnDOT has helped him in this area. “That gave me the education to see how our people can better prepare themselves in this industry,” continued Tuttle. “We’re the biggest and sexiest project on the block, and everybody wants to know what’s going on. We have more metrics and data on this project than any other project in the state’s history. Every month I’m sitting down with small vital information on this project because our people, our folk require it.

“They want to know how many African Americans are on the project. They want to know how many people [from] zip code 55411 are on the project. They want to know how many Native Americans [and] Latinos are on the project, and which contractors they are working for. We are in the position to give that to you.”

MSFA as a result “from the top down made it a priority…that there is a minority, women and veteran focus associated with [the new stadium],” stated Tuttle. “The majority of workers — 470 employees as of to date, close to 90 percent of the workers in this project — are Minnesota residents,” he noted, adding that 16 Minneapolis “high-poverty and high-unemployment” zip codes were identified as recruiting and hiring target areas. Twenty-six “minority” persons have been hired from the 55411 zip code, and 10 persons of color from 55407.

“Are we seeing extraordinarily large numbers of them? No. Are we going to get better? You better believe it,” said Tuttle, adding that other city projects should have a workforce emphasis similar to that of the Vikings stadium. “The same contractors are doing the work, but are they actually using…our people and [ensuring that they] stay employed?”

Lindsay said that he has been impressed with MSFA’s diversity and inclusion workforce efforts to date. “The [hiring] goals that we set aren’t going to solve all of those [concerns], but I do think that they reframed the conversation. We need to have a real conversation on ensuring that every citizen succeeds at whatever career they want to [succeed at], because the demands and the changing demographics are really compelling us that [if] we want to be competitive as a region and a state, we’ve got to maximize that and be successful in that.”

Although several entities, including the Metropolitan Council, seem to be moving forward, “Have they completely opened doors? …Is everything fair and open for all communities to take advantage of? I don’t think so. I think there is an opportunity for all of us to improve,” concluded Tuttle. He cited such individuals as St. Paul Human Rights Director Jessie Kingston as among those in civic leadership positions who are making strides in this area.

Next week: The MSR talks with Kingston and her office’s contract and workforce monitoring efforts.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.