Mayor Jacob Frey welcomed a standing-room only crowd to the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center the morning of March 12 to celebrate the Center's one-year anniversary and to hear from the leaders who brought the community workforce development hub to life.
Over the past year, 321 community members have been placed in jobs through the Opportunity Center. Partners lauded progress to date, but noted also the need for continued growth during the next two years.
"We started working on the idea for this Opportunity Center keeping one phrase in mind," recalled Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame. "It's a saying from an African proverb -- 'proceed as if failure is not an option.'"
"We have a good year behind us and a challenging two years ahead," commented Saeed Bihi, Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center Manager. "At a time when Minnesota faces a looming shortage in workforce, Cedar Riverside has the highest density of youth in Hennepin County. We are looking to partner with the city and county to harness the potential of our youth to fill this void."
"EMERGE has been in the community for decades and shares the mission and vision of the city and the county for training and partnership in Cedar Riverside," said Mohamed Ali, Associate Director of the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center. "We marked our first year of operation by serving 683 youth and adults in this space."
"The community set the agenda for this Opportunity Center," noted Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. "The place-based focus of developing this space required special effort. Partners made a commitment to a presence at the Center every day, and to an employment strategy focused at the community level. "That's why we are right here, making it work."
"MCTC knows that we need to be very active in closing the skills gap to meet employer needs," stated Minneapolis Community and Technical College President Sharon Pierce. "We are supporting the Opportunity Center by creating tailored curriculum to meet employment needs and supporting entrepreneurship development efforts."
"I remember Council Member Warsame coming to my office and saying 'here is what we are going to do -- create a Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center,'" recalled Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. "As late as last fall there were 73,000 job vacancies in the Metro Area. We can't leave one bit of talent on the table, and the Opportunity Center is a way to ensure that we make the best use of our local talent pool."
"This Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center represents the collision of so many good things coming together in one place," said EMERGE President and CEO Mike Wynne. "We have an opportunity here to make a workforce, employment, and education engine that keeps going for a long time."