A Successful Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)
Community Summit in Minneapolis
In collaboration with Asian Media Access; Hawman and Company; Project Sweetie Pie; Strategies; and University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC), the Twin Cities Regional Center has held a successful Asian American and Pacific Islander Community Summit on October 29, 2013 at UROC in Minneapolis Minnesota. The Summit has hosted 7 professional workshops, with more than 60 participants. All presentations were interwoven with each other, largely focusing on Transit Oriented Development, from how small businesses can grow with transit to health impacts.
MC Penny Vang opened up the event and welcomed all participants. She introduced the City Council Candidate Blong Yang, who opened up the summit expressing a lot the needs of North Minneapolis. Having lived in the North Minneapolis area for the past ten years, he voiced the concerns about public safety, ethnic equality, and home ownership. Blong stresses that these concerns are things that are not easily taken care of, especially when they have been talked about for the last thirty years. Ending his welcoming speech, Blong stepped out of the podium leaving participants nodding in agreement.
Following Blong’s speech, Peg Thomas, the Executive Director of Twin Cities Regional Center shared a detailed report about the well-being of Asian American business in North Minneapolis. After the presentation, Peg Thomas invited each table create a business sign. Groups were asked to brainstorm and discuss about types of businesses that they dream to have. Surprisingly, the attentive and quiet atmosphere suddenly broke down as participants talked with each other or moved from table to table asking to borrow materials to make their business sign more appealing.
The real questions started to pick up after Ange Hwang, Executive Director of Asian Media Access, finished her presentation “How Much Can You Do With $500,00”. Mainly focusing on channeling capital into a business through means of international investors, participants started to feel that their business sign could become more than just words written on a Styrofoam board.
Granted that one of the biggest goals in having a business is growth and expansion, Ange broke down the EB-5 economic development idea into more realistic terms for small business owners. Available since 1990, the Federal EB-5 investment program is rigorously monitored by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a division of Homeland Security. North Minneapolis has been designated as a TEA—Targeted Employment Area where foreign investments can be made in sums of $500,000. Each investment must produce 10 full-time jobs that are sustained for over a 2-year period. The investing family is then granted permanent residency status—a green card to immigrate to the United States. Investors pay all additional fees associated with their verification and immigration process.
An exit strategy for each investment allows for partial or full return of funds to the investing family 5–6 years from the initial investment date. It is important to note that these investments are at-risk investments and that the return of each investment is not guaranteed. Additionally, if the jobs are not sustained for 2-years, investors may loose their money or face deportation. This program is very high in terms of risk to foreign investors. On the bright side, the reward for investors is the opportunity to come to the US with a family visa.
With more than 250+ Regional Centers nation-wide, MN has none, and the Twin Cities Regional Center will soon fill this void. Peg Thomas explains, “The EB-5 program has been established since the 1990’s and is still being used by many regional centers nationally to help the growth and expansion of many businesses,” she continue, “but Twin Cities Regional Center is different, it is a gem amongst the other regional centers nationally because it is a non-profit with a strong mission drive to help the distressed neighborhoods.”
Representative Joe Mullery who was present at the summit voiced his concerns at a state level. One of his biggest concerns centered on how the EB-5 was not being used as an economic development strategy. A strong supporter of the EB-5, he expressed the need to call on all levels of support the use of EB-5 to strengthen our economy.
Ange Hwang also indicates why TCRC is a Win-Win Strategy for both the neighborhood and the investors. She wants to take this model a step higher by engaging the investors into the business projects. “We don’t want to leave them in the dark for those two years. I want them to see where their money is going. I want them to see that their money is being used for things that really benefit the community. I also want them to see that there is a community ready to accept them as they both work together to make this work.”
After much thought, many participants have expressed their visions in seeing a much cleaner image of North Minneapolis. “A place that has jobs providing a livable wage, a walking distance job, rather than a community that becomes high end making everyone move out,” said a participant which had many others nodding in agreement. Both presenters have acknowledged the importance of integration of the neighborhood culture into the economic development process, and led to the afternoon follow-up capacity building presentations from Hennepin County, Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, MNSure and ProBid
At the end of the Summit, all participants have joined back for an action plan discussion. Many creative ideas were generated to successfully close the Summit. Evaluations forms that made it back to the Twin Cities Regional Center had great ratings of 100% satisfaction rate. This Summit was made possible by the Great Streets Neighborhood Business District Program from the City of Minneapolis CPED. For more information about the summit, the presenters, or the presentation materials, please feel free to check out the TCRC website – www.tcrc-mn.org, or call 612-376-7715, email at [email protected]