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Albert Lea Aims to Address Disparities in Local Economy

December 04, 2017 11:05 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Two community leaders from Albert Lea will be participating in a program through the University of Minnesota to address what a 2015 survey found were significant disparities between whites and non-whites in outlooks on the local economy.

Assistant City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos and United Way of Freeborn County Executive Director Ann Austin applied and were accepted to the Equity Works Leadership Institute through the U of M. The program "builds adaptive leaders to lead inclusively and equitably in the field of workforce development,” according to its website.

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“On the application for this program, I wrote that you don't know what you don't know,” Gabrielatos said. “And I think that at the conclusion of this program Ann and I will come back with a better understanding of what the problems are in creating opportunities for people of color in the workforce and how to address them.”

Gabrielatos cited data from a 2015 survey among city residents that showed non-white people had a significantly lower outlook on employment opportunities in the community. While 20 percent of white Albert Lea residents who participated in the survey said the city’s employment opportunities were with excellent or good, only four percent of non-white residents surveyed agreed. In terms of the city’s overall economic health, 30 percent of white survey respondents said it was excellent or good, while not a single person of color agreed.

“Policy is essential, good policy is essential. It really sets up the intentions for how our community operates,” Austin said.

The program will wrap up in June, after which the pair said they’ll hopefully bring back potential solutions that will benefit all residents in the local economy, particularly people of color and those in other marginalized groups.

Austin also said she could see the program having other indirect benefits.

“Younger people like myself, people coming into our community, we appreciate diversity and so the more we can encourage it the better our community will be and more attractive to other people to move here,” she said.


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Logan Reigstad

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