Bao Vang envisions a one-stop shop for immigrants and refugees across Minnesota.
People could get training to become a diesel mechanic, truck driver or tailor. There would be child care and homework help, and a wellness center with yoga and tai chi. Farmers would sell food at a co-op. Staff would video conference with people in greater Minnesota to address their needs.
Vang, who directs the Hmong American Partnership, acknowledged the Minnesota Multicultural Center is “an aspiration and a dream” at this point. But it’s one that she and other nonprofit leaders are banding together to make a reality at an 11-acre property on St. Paul’s East Side that used to be part of 3M headquarters.
“We continue to talk about disparities. We continue to talk about the shrinkage of the labor force. We continue to talk about all the issues and challenges, but we have not been able to move the needle,” Vang said.
It’s time for Minnesota to try a new approach, she said. The nonprofit leaders are working with legislators to seek state money for planning and are pulling together financial information to present to the St. Paul Port Authority, which owns the site.