On March 23, 2021, Ramsey County, Minnesota released its first Economic Competitiveness and Inclusion Plan. This plan defines a set of economic priorities and actions that mitigate the impacts of institutional structural racism and disinvestment in Ramsey County’s Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous communities while simultaneously accelerating economic growth and competitiveness in Ramsey County, dispelling the myth that the two are mutually exclusive.
“This Economic Competitiveness and Inclusion Vision Plan serves as an important step toward achieving two longstanding county goals: 1) Cultivating economic prosperity and investing in neighborhoods with concentrated financial poverty through proactive leadership and inclusive initiatives; and 2) Enhancing access to opportunity and mobility for all residents and businesses through connections to education, employment and economic development throughout our region.” - Toni Carter, Ramsey County Board Chair
Our team at Fourth Economy provided overall project support as well as Housing Analysis, Economic Analysis, and Implementation-related services. We were honored to collaborate with partners including:
Center for Economic Inclusion - Community Engagement, Strategic Advisor, Equity Framework, Implementation.
MZ Strategies - Housing Analysis, Economic Analysis, Implementation.
Neoo Partners Inc. - Community Engagement, Strategic Advisor, Equity Framework, Implementation.
URBAN3 - Property Value Analysis, Comparative Analysis.
This partnership made space for a holistic approach to address the community’s opportunities and challenges. Every step along the way, residents, businesses, community leaders, a steering committee, and the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners were invited to engage in the development of an implementable plan that outlines economic and community objectives to pursue over the next five years. This plan is innovative in its understanding of how current levels of poverty and disinvestment began decades ago. We think all communities need to reflect on their past to better understand the policies, programs, and practices that have created today’s conditions. While we cannot go back in time, we can be purposeful in our efforts to eliminate the negative consequences of the past.
The strategies prioritize inclusion in future investments and other actions related to housing, job creation, workforce development, and place-based investments while responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
Incorporating Art into an Economic Development Plan
To bring the actions and priorities to life, Ramsey County selected three local artists to illustrate sections of the report. Throughout this post, there are illustrations pulled directly from the report that represent both the painful past of redlining policies and the hopeful future of inclusive and equitable business growth and support.
Our team thinks that art is arguably the most critical ingredient in today’s economic development recipe book. Creative entrepreneurship, events, and energy create community vibrancy, driving talent attraction and retention. We applaud Ramsey County for inviting the creative sector into this plan! Visualizing the actions invites more people to the table to dream of what Ramsey County can become in the future.
Here’s what the artists had to say about their work...
"I was thrilled to learn of this initiative by Ramsey County to take accountability and try to take a step in reversing its historically racist past. When I researched more into the policies that allowed the construction of highway 94 right through the majority Black Rondo neighborhood, I was enraged and shocked. In my illustrations I wanted to portray growth, vitality, and abundance; that through making amends we can all begin to thrive."
Khou Vue www.koovoo.me
“I am someone who regularly thinks about housing issues and has the tendency to see reality through a figurative lens. My illustrations lean heavily on metaphorical elements in order to present my creative interpretation of the actions Ramsey County is taking to create a more equitable future.”
Mayumi Park www.mayumipark.com
"Inclusive and equitable economic development is something that is very near and dear to my heart. For this project, it was important to showcase the diversity of the Ramsey County community in a hopeful yet realistic way. I loved being able to depict BIPOC folks and other intersecting identities in the diverse roles that truly make the community what it is."