Rybak: New Jobs Center, Other Efforts Will Benefit North Mpls.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak's annual State of the City address focused on initiatives aimed at bolstering North Minneapolis, including plans to bring a new work force center to the neighborhood.

In his annual State of the City address, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak on Wednesday focused on the need to address issues surrounding the struggling North Minneapolis neighborhood, calling for improvements in jobs, public safety, housing, transit, and opportunities for young people.

Among several initiatives geared toward bolstering the neighborhood, Rybak announced plans to renovate a library on Emerson Avenue and turn it into a work force development center that will cater to youth and young adults in the neighborhood. According to a Star Tribune report, the Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Foundation has pledged to donate $250,000 to the project.

The mayor also announced plans for a new housing loan and subsidy program that will help build 100 new “green homes” over the next five years on city-owned vacant lots in North Minneapolis. The homes will be built primarily in the area affected by the tornado that struck the neighborhood last May. The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency committed $500,000 to the project last week, the Star Tribune reported.

Rybak added that the city's housing market is recovering and pointed out that since 2008, Minneapolis has led the metro region in permitting new units.

Rybak also touted Minneapolis' employment and training programs, saying that since 2006, the programs have helped 6,921 individuals find jobs-40 percent of whom were from North Minneapolis. But he pointed out that there is a disparity between the city's overall unemployment rate (5.3 percent) and its African American unemployment rate (20 percent).

This longstanding gap is “morally wrong and potentially economically ruinous,” Rybak said in a statement. He added that the city is taking several steps to address this disparity, including extending a job-training program for minorities and low-income individuals, and increasing goals for minority work force participation in city contracts.