This is an emotionally full week, with a roller coaster of ups and downs.
The ups: After a delay due to quarantine protocols, Governor Walz delivered his 3rd State of the State. Markedly different from his Address last year, when he told Minnesotans to begin “bracing for a storm of epic proportions.” On Sunday, he embraced a more optimistic tone, saying “brighter days are here and even more are coming… Normalcy is on the horizon.”
The downs: So many members of our community are on edge, with the start of the Chauvin trial, and the lingering effects of mass shootings in Boulder and Atlanta last week.
The roller coaster has left me with mixed feelings. I am grateful for the Governor’s optimism. I know I am not alone in my strong desire to engage again. The sunshine and warmer weather are helping. That said, I imagine I also am not alone in wondering how these next weeks will roll out through the trial and in the aftermath of the Atlanta tragedy. Each of us can be a witness in opposition to violence. Please, if you witness or experience discrimination or bias, report it. Check your own implicit and explicit biases, and consider how your actions could impact others. We can invite truth, validate one another’s experiences, and try to create safety for all of us.
This is a great week to deliberately reach out to those close to you, to renew connections and remind yourself that we're all on this ride together.
Check out my 7 things you should know below. See you in the trenches.
Governor Walz has opened up vaccine eligibility to Minnesotans age 16 and older, as of March 30. This is great news and comes several months ahead of original expectations. "How to get your vaccine" recommendations from the State:
The Governor, the Senate majority and the House majority all have released their budget proposals. Now the work starts to align the different proposals into one package. The legislature is on Easter/Passover break this week, they will be busy upon their return to meet the third deadline on Friday, April 9. The 2021 regular legislative session is required to adjourn Monday, May 17.
Read more in our weekly Chamber Advocacy Update.
The SBA will launch a new program, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Grant Program, in the next thirty days. As part of the recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the SBA program will provide $28.6 billion in grant funding to qualified businesses in the hospitality industry. Check the SBA portal often for program updates. Types of businesses explicitly stated in the ARPA that are eligible to apply include, “restaurant, food stand, food truck, food cart, caterer, saloon, inn, tavern, bar, lounge, brewpub, tasting room, taproom, licensed facility or premise of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products.”
4. Cultivating Relationships
Our friends at the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance last week summarized how important are the relationships that bind us. With more billions of federal money coming to the state, and much work to do in the recovery ahead, partners from across the spectrum – corporate, philanthropic, public – are leaning in and working together.
“Partners like Securian Financial, who increased their community investments by 25% last year, are helping us lead the charge to welcome workers back in the coming months. Partners like the Knight Foundation, who have not only supported the Downtown Alliance year over year, but are investing in citywide efforts to reimagine and improve public safety and address racial disparities to help us not just come back, but come back better than ever. Partners like Visit Saint Paul and the City of Saint Paul Planning and Economic Development department are hyper-focused on supporting our local restaurants and promoting our incredible food scene. If you haven't seen that video, be sure to give it a watch.”
5. Driving Progress
The journey to eliminating racism is a road with many potholes, and we all need to do the work to really get there, especially with peers who might not be as far along. This author is a Black woman who often is mistaken for being White. She shares her experience here.
6. Growing Leaders
A recent report from Brookings is worth your time. It outlines a simple three-step framework for how CEOs can move from commitment to action to make meaningful progress toward a more equitable economy.
7. Building Capacity
“The Great Awakening,” a new report from The Harris Poll examines American sentiment regarding returning to offices, events and travel; DEI; a pending spending boom; interest in hybrid services; and public expectation that the business community will deliver solutions during crises like the pandemic. This last point parallels what chambers have done for months – stepping in to provide assistance when public trust in the government to do so has waned.
Atlanta. As it was for the rest of the country. On Tuesday, March 16, a series of shootings took place in three Atlanta-area spas resulting in the deaths of eight people, several of whom were of Asian descent. Six of them women. Data points aside, my heart is aching – and my head is reeling. We both stand together with our Asian American friends to condemn this violence and find ourselves on our knees in shared grief.
This was not random; the perpetrator was on his way to Florida for more of the same when he was arrested. Indeed, hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been growing. Stop AAPI Hate was formed in March of 2020 to prevent discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a report released on Tuesday, the group said it had received reports of 3,795 incidents between March 19, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2021. But it said the number could be higher because not all incidents are reported.
We all are invited to join the Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL) on Wednesday, March 24, from 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM CDT for Unheard Stories: Asian Americans Experiencing Hate, a public community event to hear from leaders and community members about what has been occurring in Minnesota and nationwide, hear from victims of hate, and work together with us to take action against violence and hate. Speakers will include U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, MDHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero, CAAL Executive & Network Director Bo Thao-Urabe, and others.
See you in the trenches.
On Friday, the NY Times wrote an interesting piece about the vaccine roll-out in the U.S./Britain compared to the European Union. The U.S. actually may avoid the “third wave” that Europe is facing now. A few countries are back on lock-down as a result. No single culprit. Instead, a series of small decisions have led to only about 10% of Europeans receiving their first vaccine dose thus far (compared to 23% in the U.S., and 39% in Britain).
At the Legislature: second policy committee deadline was Friday, March 19. Bills with finance and tax implications have a deadline for passage through relevant committees by Friday, April 9. Given that Easter/Passover break is March 26 – April 5, the Legislature doesn’t have much time left. Budget deliberations will intensify: the House DFL is expected to release its budget targets/priorities this week. The Senate Republican budget plan released last week likely will fall far short of the House DFL’s and Governor’s budget plans, including a proposed hold on all tax increases. Also included is the exemption of federal PPP loans from state taxes (an issue not universally agreed upon – which I find unfathomable).
Tax Day: IRS and US Treasury extended filing and payment deadline for individuals to May 17, 2021. See details here. Read the full press release here.
4. Cultivating Relationships
MNSCU Board of Trustees last Wednesday announced the appointment of two new presidents: Dr. Edward Inch will serve as the president of Minnesota State University, Mankato, beginning July 1. Dr. Deidra Peaslee will become the next president of Saint Paul College, effective immediately. Dr. Peaslee has served as interim at SPC since 2019.
5. Driving Progress
Two development projects in Saint Paul of immediate interest:
Lexington Station housing project and the Rondo Bridge. The Chamber is bullish on both, with a vision of encouraging development that invites bigger thinking of what is possible for us moving forward.
The Lexington Station project appeal was presented to the City Council on March 17. Was laid over till April 7. Channon Lemon and I co-authored an op-ed last week on the project: “Approve this project but improve the process”
And we continue to enthusiastically support the Rondo Land Bridge (you can find a review of the project here
6. Growing Leaders
I read a fascinating article this past week, on “the enemies of inclusion.” Are they certain people? No, they’re actually found within our own mistaken understanding> Inclusion requires that, sometimes – often in fact, we don’t get to universal consensus.
The Enemies of Inclusion: Cancelling, Consensus, and Perfection https://www.tlnt.com/the-enemies-of-inclusion-cancelling-consensus-and-perfection/.
7. Building Capacity
Today, I’m talking – literally – about capacity!
I feel a drumbeat. It thrums in my chest. And it’s getting louder, has been growing for some time. It doesn’t come from within me but from people around me, and I connect it to growing insistence from the community whose previously silenced or ignored voices must be heard. In social justice. In economic empowerment. In equal access to opportunity. Candidly, what I feel in response is generalized anxiety. Because I’m not sure of what to do with all I’m sensing and feeling, and what my role should be in addressing any of it. Also, somewhere inside of me, is an unconscious fear that if I acknowledge and give way to the urgency of others, I will lose. Something. I talk regularly about the need to embrace a “philosophy of abundance,” which speaks to the idea of building more together, making room. I speak it loudly and regularly to remind myself, perhaps, of the need to be free of fear. To embrace new thinking, more equitable ways of doing business. More is better. And yet my unconscious still is reacting viscerally with the “philosophy of scarcity”: there is only one winner, and if it’s not me, then I lose.
I say all this out loud right now to open the window, so to speak, blow out the dark, shine light on my own smallness so it does not hold me captive.
“Transformation” is a big word. I like the sound of it, but I don’t quite know how to create it. And, of course, if I have to give way in any part of my life to achieve it, well, I’d rather talk about it than help create it. That said, on the flip side, my very nature rebels against the talking-without-action. I can’t stand it. The tension, my internal conflict, is real.
Besides, my life is just fine. I’m comfortable. I don’t really want to “upset the apple cart,” so to speak, if change – transformation – well, changes “too much.” How and why does one, exactly, “activate transformation”? I mean, who am I to impact social justice? Or bring about economic empowerment, equal access to opportunity? I generally welcome new thinking, I enjoy learning something new, but how do I know what within me represents the “old” that I should retire or walk away from? And what “new” is worthy of my embrace and advancement? And then, ultimately, what power – or right - do I have to advance anything anywhere?
I met a friend for a walk this past weekend. Because it’s relevant to the conversation, I’ll further share that this friend is a Black woman. We were talking about a development project in Saint Paul that I’ve been wrestling with. In this conversation, “transformation” was in the context of economic development. Our conversation expanded, hence my meanderings today. I’ll share my internal monologue, and my friend’s unequivocal responses:
Me: I’m very uncomfortable. And I’m afraid. That I will lose something. That I will do it wrong.
My friend: “Get over yourself. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’re doing something right.”
My thinking: Unfiltered, lol, but ok.
Me: Life is just fine. I’m comfortable (read: I don’t really want to work too hard to change anything, especially myself).
My friend: “Your comfort comes at a cost for people who look like me. And it’s a privilege to not have to worry about it, a privilege to be able to choose whether or not to engage on these issues.”
My thinking: Hmmm… sometimes I am party to the oppression.
Me: Who am I to speak into something as big as “transformation”?
My friend: “Who are you NOT to?”
My thinking: Dang, no escape there. Think Marianne Williamson’s quote, about our “deepest fear”
Me: What is “old” that I should retire or walk away from? You know, I don’t want to be a “radical.”
My friend: “Think about what is in place now that actually undermines true equity. Look around you. Listen to people who talk about the structures and practices that have gotten us to where we are, practices that maintain disparities. We can begin to identify them on many fronts. Start with practices that shape hiring, access to capital, and quality of education.”
My thinking: This is a muscle I’m learning to develop. And it will get easier as I practice exercising it. My perspective continues to change. This is something I’ve got to step into and figure out as I go. That’s the work. Even the parts of myself I don’t like too much. I have to figure out how to stay in this space and work through it.
Me: How do I know what is “new” and worthy of my embrace/advancement?
My friend: “Start with people. Think deeply about who will help you have a better conversation, bring new perspectives, to help us have a richer, deeper, more informed conversation. And who will position you for growth. Choose to hang around those people.”
My thinking: OK, this one really resonates with me. This is something I can do.
Me: What power/right do I have to do or say anything about “transforming” community?
Me (I figured this one out on my own): Actually, in my role, I must acknowledge the great responsibility to activate transformation. This organization has agency, power, to speak into change – to lean in, as it were. In fact, each of us, within our own areas of operation, has the power/right/responsibility to lean into issues of social justice and economic advancement opportunity.
Well, this is me leaning in. Still standing in my slip in front of the room.
See you in the trenches.
Late Friday, MDH published the Covid-19 Employer Toolkit. This is a one stop shop designed to direct employers to the resources they need to help their workforce get vaccinated safely and efficiently and to provide materials to educate employees about COVID-19 vaccines.
COVID-19 Vaccine Connector: COVID-19 Vaccine Connector
Vaccine Info Hub: Minnesota Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine information hub
As of Sunday, nearly 500K Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19, 6730 have died. Thus far, Minnesota has administered nearly 2M doses. How has our experience and response stacked up against other states?
Two big moves this past week:
The big news, of course, is Governor Walz’s EO 21-11, “turning the dial” and opening up the economy one more step. The St. Paul Saints, Twins, Wild and other venues are ready. The UofM plans a full return to normal campus operations by fall semester. By mid-April, businesses no longer will be bound by “must” work from home. Instead, we are “strongly encouraged,” and must allow for employees to continue to work virtually as is reasonably possible.
And what’s going on with real estate? I don’t think I’m being naïve when I tell you that I have real optimism for the Saint Paul real estate market ahead. Life – and office space – will be different, no doubt. And yet we have strong pent-up demand. And job growth ahead. We’ve also had some real wins in the past year, along with businesses re-committing. I’m sure you read Target’s announcement last week they are downsizing – significantly – in downtown Minneapolis.
Which downtown restaurants and breweries have opened their patios?
The latest in a speaker series, organized by the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance, spoke on Friday, 3/5, on The Future of Office. If you were not able to make it, a recording can be found here. Especially given the news last week that Target corporate will reduce their office footprint in Minneapolis, I encourage you to watch it. As employers adapt toward more flexible work environments, less physical space may be necessary, but the need and desire for a place for colleagues to gather and innovate will continue.
The pandemic fallout, politics, civil unrest have put the spotlight on how organizations handle the unexpected. Is yours ready? Are you a transformational leader? Korn Ferry Institute published a paper, “Activating Transformation.” Where do you see yourself?
We are delighted to introduce our latest member to the team: Megan Forgrave, our new Vice President of Programming and Member Experience, joined us today. She comes to us from The Bush Foundation, where she was their Communications Program Manager. Welcome Megan!
This past week I and so many of you have been thinking and talking about the impending trial of Derek Chauvin, scheduled to start today. Jury selection begins, and it sounds like the trial itself is anticipated to begin on March 29. Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. On Friday, March 5, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the prosecutor erred when he refused reinstate a third-degree murder charge. I haven’t found out yet if that charge has been reinstated.
Most of us are horrified bystanders in all this, many have been victims of the ensuing civil unrest – with more feared as the trial proceeds. We’ve had conversations with SPPD about how businesses can prepare, have shared that information, and will continue to keep you appraised as the trial goes on.
Law enforcement agencies have come together to set up social media channels to keep us posted: Operation Safety Net. You can livestream the trial at Court TV’s website.
See you in the trenches.
From the MDH website: as of Friday, March 5, over 1M Minnesotans have had at least one vaccine dose. 570K have had both. Within the target age group of 65+, 64% have gotten at least one dose. Minnesota now has jumped to 3d in the nation for vaccine distribution. Also notable is the receipt of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the last week of Feb. Vaccination sites have expanded into the East Metro, to include the Roy Wilkins in Saint Paul and the Vikings Training Facility in Eagan.
COVID-19 Vaccine Connector: COVID-19 Vaccine Connector Vaccine Info Hub: Minnesota Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine information hub
The Chamber is focusing its advocacy efforts on the PPP tax conformity. We’re encouraged about the news coming out of the Senate about bipartisan cooperation to get the bill passed. If you haven’t yet, please contact your State Senator and Representative (or email John on our PA team) to urge them to support federal tax conformity.
The Senate passed President Biden’s Pandemic Aid Plan – the American Rescue Plan. Nice touch with the name, huh? At $2.2 trillion, it’s just shy of the March 2020 stimulus bill. But it involved a lot of drama. In the Senate, Republicans unanimously opposed it. Now it’s back to the House for a final vote. Included: $1400 one-time direct payment to many Americans (the third stimulus check approved) Unemployment insurance of $300/week through the summer $ for vaccine distribution $ for child tax credit $370 billion for tribes, states, counties, cities (Dakota Cty = $84M; Hennepin Cty = $247M; Ramsey Cty = $107M; Washington Cty = $51M) What’s not included? An increase in the federal minimum wage to $15.
Three of the few issues that has enthusiastic support among both parties: money for COVID-19 tests and vaccines; business support; and boosting support for those caring for children.
The budget impact? The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that this bill would add #.862 trillion to the national deficit over 10 years, with the bulk of the new spending - $1.173 trillion – occurring in FY 2021. https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2021-03/Recontable.pdf
Which downtown restaurants and breweries have opened their patios?
We’re closely watching the Lexington Station project. In February, Saint Paul’s Planning Commission voted to disapprove the site plan for this $57M housing development on land adjacent to the Wilder Foundation at Lexington and University. Lots of layers to this one. On the face of it, the City’s own attorney warned the Planning Commission that it has no legal standing to oppose a plan that meets zoning requirements, seeks no variances or public assistance. And the vote represents no defensible strategic position given that this project plans to deliver over 50% affordable housing. The concerns? Still not enough. Again, lots of layers, may of them that go beyond the project itself. The City Council will address the developer’s appeal in mid-March. Stay tuned.