Cedar-Riverside Opportunity Center is a step in the right direction

Daily Editorial Board

The increasing focus on job production for Minnesota’s Somali population is an important step to support one of our state’s most vital communities.

Last year, Minneapolis hosted a job fair aimed at improving employment within the Somali community. Recently, though, this push was manifested into the long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony for a new job hub — the Opportunity Center — in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

This particular neighborhood represents one of the nation’s largest Somali diaspora, which has experienced significant unemployment in recent years. The economic struggle many Somali people face is unacceptable. Between 2011 and 2013, unemployment for the Somali community was 21 percent, nearly three times the state average. Last year’s numbers show that the Somali community has the highest unemployment for any minority group. Nearly 50 percent live in poverty.

Nationally, the situation remains bleak. The poverty and unemployment faced by the Somali community towers above all other minority communities. Even for those that are employed, many remain in jobs that don’t provide adequate pay.

The hope is that the new Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center, as it is presently known, will help mitigate these pressing concerns. It aims to be a meeting place where residents can learn necessary job skills.

Initially, the funding for this center was placed into a tax bill that was ultimately rejected due to political gridlock. However, the project garnered enough independent support to be funded by philanthropy and Hennepin County.

While the construction of job training programs and other investments require an initial amount of capital, the output over time is worth it for a vibrant, robust economy and the livelihood of the communities these programs support.

The Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center will hopefully serve as a clear example of what efforts other cities in Minnesota should be advocating in order to improve the quality of life for the Somali community.

More community engagement programs such as ones in Columbia Heights and Minneapolis will still be a crucial aspect of ensuring that our communities create and maintain an atmosphere of trust and empowerment. Enfranchisement through representation in the city government is also a major aspect that needs improvement.

Ilhan Omar’s candidacy, as well as Abdi Warsame’s City Council office, have been an important first step, but more must be done across the state. Job-training programs such as the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center will hopefully work toward that reality.