Kevin Lindsey says he knows even daunting goals for workforce diversity can be achieved.
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights commissioner said many people had doubts when the state raised its goal for minority workforce participation in the construction of U.S. Bank Stadium from 11 percent to 32 percent.
"Five to six years ago, we didn't see what our future looked like in Minnesota," he said, noting most people failed to recognize that dramatic demographic changes were occurring.
With 3.7 million work hours logged on the project, 37 percent were provided by minorities and 9 percent were filled by women, according to Alex Tittle, vice president of the Business Connect Program and Corporate Affairs for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee.
Speaking to a crowd of about 60 Thursday afternoon, Lindsey and Tittle encouraged area residents to provide the required leadership as construction efforts continue locally.
Rochester requires Destination Medical Center-approved projects include women- and minority-owned contractors in at least 4 percent of their work plans, based on value. Additionally, in 2015, it set employment goals for contractors, which are 4 percent minority employment and 6 percent women employment. The percentages are based on Department of Human Rights recommendations.
Interim City Administrator Gary Neumann said the policy only covers four projects at this point, but some have exceeded the goals already, including the new parking ramp being constructed at the corner of First Avenue Southeast and Center Street. He said it appears the minority-owned contractor participation on that project could exceed 9 percent.
Walter Smith, of Rochester, who helped organize Thursday's forum, along with a roundtable discussion beforehand, said such efforts must be part of public conversations. As executive director of Everybody In MN, he said he hears frustrations about DMC developments that appear to lack diverse participation.
"There is a concern around those percentages," he said, noting local economic development efforts offer opportunities and diversity advocates want to make sure the opportunities are widespread.
Smith said he hopes suggestions made by Keith Baker, vice president of Minnesota operations for Kaskaskia Engineering Group, can be taken to heart.
Baker, who sits on the Everybody In MN board, said it's important to find ways to ensure minority- and women-owned businesses can compete with larger companies. On the stadium project, he worked with small companies to combine their skills and overcome a tendency toward competition. By doing so, he said they were able to share a larger piece of the work,
Like Tittle, he said the key to success is leadership, as well as a focus on the issue.
"The more we are able to concentrate on this, the better able we are to create opportunities," he said.
Joselyn Raymundo, founder of Rochester Home Infusion, said creating those opportunities will bring benefits.
About half the workforce at her company, which provides in-home IV services, are minority residents, including many immigrants. She said doing so has helped grow her business.
"As we give opportunities to those who are hungry to contribute, hungry to be successful, then we reap the benefits of that," she said.
Kevin Bright, DMC's sustainability director, said he sees potential for creating such benefits throughout the community as efforts to diversify workforces throughout the region continue.
"This really is an economic issue fundamentally," he said.
Smith agreed, ensuring those benefits are seen by all throughout the community will take more conversations that work to bring a variety of community members to the table.