how community engagement led to Northside community investment

When NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center leaders considered a campus expansion project, community engagement was at the forefront, and prioritizing inclusion was the pathway to that engagement. The two pillars of this vision were: maximizing small business inclusion in our procurement process and deepening community involvement in our project workforce.

NorthPoint Community Council has underscored these priorities through a partnership with Hennepin County, which has invested $87.15 million in the project and embarked on a modified procurement process. The project was unbundled by creating smaller Small Business (SBE) construction packages to bid for selection. Funding for these small packages was for SBEs employing ex-offenders.

The process resulted in two Minority-Owned Small Businesses (MBEs): KMS Construction and TRI-Construction, local contractors whose teams were 74% made up of small MBE contractors and suppliers. As for the inclusion of the community workforce, the general contractor, JE Dunn Construction, worked with the Twin Cities Urban League to recruit employees. The project aimed to prioritize the recruitment and hiring of local laborers and carpenters, particularly with the aim of increasing the participation of minorities and women.

A common vision

JE Dunn Construction, KMS Construction and TRI-Construction share a common vision of a healthy and thriving northern community through direct investment in its people and businesses. Access to gainful employment and quality health care is essential to the longevity of the north. The NorthPoint campus expansion is an example of this type of direct community investment. For Ken McCraley, owner of KMS Construction, it’s also an opportunity to show that minority contractors can deliver high-quality projects and become a model for how to bundle projects to include MBEs.

For JE Dunn Construction, much of their work involves healthcare facilities. JE Dunn’s guiding principles are aligned with NorthPoint’s campus expansion plan: family first, doing the right thing, serving others, and health and wellness. Bill Igel, JE Dunn’s vice president of health care for Minneapolis, said NorthPoint’s new building “will be among the best facilities we’ve worked on” and will provide access to a state-of-the-art facility only many members of the community had never had before. a chance to visit. Mr. Igel thinks it will be a very welcoming space that will make the Northside community proud.

Ms. Delmarie Nelson, 51, on the NorthPoint site. Photo Credit: NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center

Engage with the community

Although JE Dunn Construction is not based in Minneapolis, Igel says their all-local Minneapolis office and NorthPoint campus expansion are an opportunity to enrich the lives of community members who live in the community. One example is JE Dunn’s work with the Urban League of Minneapolis hosting a job fair in August 2021, educating community members about working in the trades and high-paying jobs available.

For Ms. Delmarie Nelson, 51, getting hired was an opportunity to earn a competitive salary and above all, a retirement. Ms Nelson, a beautician and business owner, said she was attracted by the hourly wage and also the possibility of a pension, which she does not have as a business owner. The debt-free training was also very attractive. Ms. Nelson was trained before arriving on site, visited and learned from various unions, and finally started working at the NorthPoint site in May 2022, after completing 3 months of training. One training she particularly enjoyed was on emotional intelligence, which she says is important for keeping emotions calm while working with heavy machinery. Ms. Nelson still works at the NorthPoint site today and has even recertified as a flagman. She hopes to get more certifications and move up the ranks, because in her own words “the sky is the limit”. She also hopes to see more women and black people in higher positions, such as foreman and superintendent. For Ms. Nelson, who used to visit her doctor in NorthPoint when it was Pilot City, it means a lot that she will walk past the finished building and be able to say, “I was part of it.”

Another example of JE Dunn’s commitment to partnership beyond construction is their involvement with NorthPoint programs like the Food Shelf, where employees can volunteer and fundraise. The goal is not just to hammer nails and pour concrete, as Mr. Igel says, but also “to know the importance of this work and why we do it”.

Invest in the community

For the north, which is predominantly African American, the new building will be an investment in the community. TRI-Construction owner Calvin Littlejohn explains that “if we want to see the African-American community grow, we need to strengthen or increase the business sector of the African-American community.” TRI-Construction ensures that payroll money goes to northern households. This sentiment is echoed by Mr. Igel of JE Dunn, who says “we want to enrich people’s lives through the buildings we build”.

And for NorthPoint staff, 70% of whom have community ties, the new building will be an enhanced space on par with other leading healthcare facilities in the Twin Cities.

Long term impacts

The new and improved NorthPoint building also means the ability to increase services. Members of the community will have access to facilities such as a dental specialty center, a cafe-bistro and teaching kitchen, a children’s wellness center offering free childcare services, a spiritual healing and wellness and increased distributions of food shelves.

Health equity-focused programming will also include the NorthPlace Housing Connection to create and support a housing network in North Minneapolis, the African American Men’s Center of Excellence to focus on collective support for men African Americans, the NorthPoint Nutrition Center which will align all food programs and educate customers on healthy food options and ensure environmental equity with community education on renewable energy and other sustainable energy practices.

For Ken McCraley of KMS, these increased impacts on services and programs will create a healthier community. “From a pure people perspective, people will believe in building this community because they will have accessible, high-quality health care right here in their neighborhood.

Jill E. Washington