St. Louis Park sets diversity goals for developers that receive city assistance
Attorneys recommended against making the percentages mandatory, though
Seth Rowe | February 6th, 2023
St. Louis Park informally set diversity goals for businesses that benefit from city financial support last year.
The goals apply to companies that receive more than $200,000 in financial assistance that are involved in new construction, renovation or similar projects for commercial, industrial, multifamily or mixed-use developments. The council had not formally adopted the goals, but staff put them into effect anyway following previous council discussion. Despite differing views on how companies should report results and whether the goals would lead to businesses seeking more financial assistance, the council generally supported the idea in a recent work session.
Members also asked about making the goals into requirements. However, the city attorney and legal counsel for the St. Louis Park Economic Development Authority advised city leaders against making the hiring percentages mandatory for affected businesses. The attorneys said the city could establish goals “to create more opportunities in the development community for historically under-represented women and black people, indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC), and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI),” according to a city staff report.
Thirteen percent of the staff for developers, contractors, subcontractors and “peripheral enterprises” like consultants should be people of color, according to the goals.
The proportion of construction workers themselves at job sites who are people of color should be 32%, according to the city.
The goals for women originally ranged from 6% to 10%. In December, city staff recommended increasing the goal for women in the workforce at job sites to 20% “to better align with the goals of the state and county for the metro area.”
Many of the goals are similar to those in Minnesota Housing’s “Minority or Women Business Enterprises Compliance Guide,” according to the city report.
“These goals are increasingly becoming well known and more widely implemented by Twin Cities area developers and contractors,” the staff report says. “As a result, area companies have developed systems for tracking and reporting these metrics for metro cities and state agencies.”
The peripheral enterprise goals relating to consultants like architects, accountants, attorneys, lenders and others are unique to St. Louis Park, according to the staff report.
Making a mandate?
During a December City Council work session, Councilmember Nadia Mohamed asked why the goals could not be requirements.
Redevelopment Administrator Jennifer Monson replied that capacity is one issue. “There’s not tons of BIPOC/AAPI-owned contractors,” Monson said. “We know that this is an issue that people are having.”
Some existing such businesses are already busy and cannot take on additional jobs because they are small, she added.
Council Member Tim Brausen noted that the Metropolitan Council, in a recent report to a committee for the Southwest Light Rail Transit line, reported it had fallen short of its goals for years.
“It’s challenging, but we continue to create these goals and hopefully people out there in the world see that and undergo the necessary training to get the opportunity to do it,” Brausen said.
Council Member Margaret Rog remarked that in her experience working with Dunwoody College of Technology on the topic of women and tech careers, “A lot of women quit because they can’t handle the harassment, so it’s a cultural problem as well. There are women who train for that and then just leave it because it’s pretty bad.”
Additionally, Community Development Director Karen Barton said the city would have to conduct a multi-year study to establish that disparities the city is trying to address do exist in St. Louis Park before making the goals into requirements.
City Manager Kim Keller noted the city then would have to conduct additional studies to show disparities continued to exist in the city in order to keep requirements in place.