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Dayton Hires Equity Veteran To Tackle State’s Economic Disparities

Karen Francois previously served in a similar department at the City of Minneapolis.

Gov. Mark Dayton named Karen Francois as the assistant commissioner for the new Office of Career and Business Opportunity.
 
The office, part of the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), was recently created to tackle economic disparities throughout the state and improve outcomes in communities of color.
 
Francois has extensive previous experience working in the equity field, including over four years of working at the City of Minneapolis as director of employment equity and in the Department of Civil Rights.
 
“Karen has a wealth of experience addressing employment disparities and has a reputation for creating [innovative] solutions to complex problems,” DEED commissioner Katie Clark Sieben said in a statement.
 
Minnesota has some of the nation’s worst racial disparities in the United States. Compared to white Minnesotans, people of color are more likely to live in poverty, less likely to graduate or own their own home and more likely to suffering chronic illness, according to a report by Minnesota Compass.
 
Minnesotans of color had a median household income of $39,000—about 45 percent lower than their white counterparts. They also suffered higher rates of unemployment: While the state unemployment rate stood at 3.7 percent in February, the rate for black Minnesotans was 13.6 percent. Hispanic or Latino Minnesotans had a rate of 4.5 percent unemployment, while whites were below the average at 2.9 percent.
 
The office will focus on four areas to address these disparities. Those areas include connecting communities of color to job training, provide resources to help start businesses, push the private sector to adopt hiring practices that improve minority employment and break down current barriers in state government.