Left: Business partners Julie Morgan Wellman (left) and Allisa Barthel (right), Top Right: Punk Rawk Labs nacho cheese flavor, Bottom Right: New square packaging
Originally a food blog, Punk
Rawk Labs (PRL) is a rapidly
growing dairy alternative gourmet cheese business. Run out of a
customized kitchen in the Corcoran neighborhood that is part manufacturing
facility/part lab, PRL is owned and operated by business partners Julie Morgan
Wellman, Alissa Barthel and Heidi Ochsner. With a team of nine employees, PRL produces
300-800 delicious squares of 4 oz. cheese made from cashews, water, culture,
and salt every five days using a process similar to traditional dairy
The cheese was not always
square. In late 2014, the City of Minneapolis connected PRL to its Homegrown
Loan program. As a
Minneapolis business promoting sustainable food production, PRL was a perfect
candidate for the program. With a $10K two-percent loan administered by
MCCD, PRL redesigned their round packaging to a square container as well as
used funds to save money and buy packaging in bulk. The investment paid
off. PRL was able to reduce their price point and the new package made
them more attractive to distributors as it was less likely to roll off the
shelf. These two things helped seal a deal with a major distributor and
gain a contract with 11 Seattle grocery stores (with the potential for
distribution in 550 additional West Coast stores). The packaging change also
keeps the product colder longer and increases onsite storage capacity.
As Julie, Alissa and Heidi look to the
future, they imagine they will need to add a second shift to meet the growing
product demand. Longer term, they are considering expanding by adding a
juice and retail shop, and are thinking about a second location on the West Coast.
You can find PRL cheeses in any
local co-op grocery. Flavors include original, herb, smoked with a pepper
crust, and nacho. Truffle will be coming soon.
Watch PRL on The Today Show
On Monday, March 9, Mayor Betsy Hodges joined President
Obama as he announced a new initiative called TechHire, focused on training and
connecting Americans with the more than half a million tech jobs currently
available. Minneapolis is among the first of 20 regions that will be
participating in this new initiative, creating public-private partnerships to
prepare workers for a growing number of technology jobs.
TechHire focuses on empowering Americans with the
skills they need, through universities and community colleges but also
nontraditional approaches like “coding boot camps,” and high-quality online
courses that can rapidly train workers for a well paying job often in just a
few months. Many of these programs do not require a four-year degree.
In response to the rapid growth in tech jobs, the
Minneapolis region has developed three high-quality accelerated training
programs to partner with TechHire to launch Minnesota residents from
non-traditional backgrounds into the growing IT industry. As part of the
TechHire initiative, these educational innovators – Prime Digital Academy,
IT-Ready, and Concordia University – will expand their programs to train a
combined 300 individuals this year for entry-level software positions. This
will be made possible by commitments from over 60 employers and
apprenticeship partners representing thousands of software development,
networking, and technical support jobs throughout the metro.
The City of Minneapolis is embarking upon a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design and build a new public open space in Downtown Minneapolis. The Downtown East Commons is a 4.2-acre site located next to new and existing office and residential buildings, light rail, and the new multi-purpose stadium.
The Commons will serve the downtown community, workers, visitors, residents of Minneapolis and the region. It will also host events connected to the new stadium.
On February 24, the City of
Minneapolis hosted the first of three public meetings in the process to develop
the design for the Downtown East Commons. The meeting was held at the
Mill City Museum, and over 150 people attended to meet the design team led by
Hargreaves Associates, learn about the project background, and give input about how they envision the Commons.
Main themes that arose include a desire for the Commons to serve as green respite for users, that it
complements, but is distinguished from the nearby multi-purpose stadium, that
it feel safe and inviting, that it is heavily programmed, and balances
opportunities for active and passive uses. A strong interest in reducing
the traffic impact of Portland and Park Avenues was also expressed by many
attendees. Additionally, having the
Commons served by a restaurant or café was also popular.
For those who were unable to
attend the meeting, the complete presentation is available on the Downtown East
Commons website. Additionally, an
survey is also posted on the page for the
public to share their views on the amenities, activities, and uses they would like to see in
The feedback from the February
24 meeting, the online survey and other public engagement activities will be
used by the Hargreaves Team to design initial park concepts. These designs will be presented at a meeting
scheduled for April 8, 2015. You can
sign up for email updates on the project website.
will be embedded in five City department projects in 2015 as part of a
three-year program that is bringing the expertise and unique perspectives of
highly skilled community artists to help set City priorities. Creative
CityMaking is a collaboration between Intermedia Arts and the City of
Minneapolis pairing local artists with City staff to develop fresh and
innovative approaches for addressing long-term issues facing Minneapolis.
of the five artist teams are now matched with City departments for the 2015
Creative CityMaking program:
Creative Asset Mapping in the Department of Community
Planning and Economic Development - Long Range Planning Division
Shá Cage and E.G. Bailey will work with department staff and consult with
Minneapolis communities to identify important strengths or positive qualities
in communities around the city, particularly in areas with the highest
concentrations of poverty and people of color. These are important but
intangible assets that communities value, but that may not show up on a standard
map. For example, a community gathering place might be seen as an asset, or a
person or informal network of people might be important to a community’s
cohesion. The artists seek to map and creatively represent those strengths
in ways that the City can use to develop plans and policies.
The Blueprint for Equitable Engagement in the Neighborhood and Community
D.A. Bullock and Ariah Fine will work on this multi-year strategic action plan to
ensure the City seeks and values all community voices. The artists will
focus on helping make sure neighborhood organizations, City boards and
commissions, and City enterprise outreach and engagement groups reflect the
communities they serve.
program advances the City’s One Minneapolis goal: Disparities are eliminated so
all Minneapolis residents can participate and prosper. Creative CityMaking intends to find ways to involve more people from communities that are
typically underrepresented in conventional City projects and processes.
Originally from Somalia, Abdifatah Abdullahi, or Abdi, grew up in Hagadher, the largest refugee camp in Kenya. In 2011, along with his mother and siblings, Abdi moved from Hagadher to Minneapolis. While attending 9th grade at the Wellstone International High School, Abdi learned about STEP-UP during a presentation. The first year he applied, he did not receive a job placement.
Not deterred, he applied again the following year and landed a position at the Wells Fargo banking store in Elliot Park. At first, Abdi was overwhelmed at the responsibility of working as a bank teller. However, when a manager suggested he think about the internship as a learning experience rather than a job, he decided to give it his all. Soon, he found that he really liked the work. Over time, his co-workers became like family. They provided encouragement, advice, and taught him that he could help customers have a great experience. He found himself being a trusted adviser for customers and appreciated the opportunity to give back to his community in that capacity. So, when the internship concluded, Abdi decided he wanted to stay on as a team member at the bank during the school year. As a promising young employee, Wells Fargo hired him. At present, Abdi works at the Franklin Avenue location.
Abdi is not only a hard worker at the bank, but he is at school as well. A senior at Wellstone, Abdi has applied to and been accepted by several local colleges. This will allow him to be close to his family and continue to work at the bank while earning his degree in either civil engineering or dental hygiene. It will also allow him to mentor his younger siblings while they experience their own STEP-UP journeys. One of his younger brothers is participating in STEP-UP’s work readiness training right now and hopes to be placed in an outdoors job setting for this summer.
Ibrahim A. Noor is the Field Operations Area Manager
at the Minneapolis South and North WorkForce Centers. He has been an employee
of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development since 1999.
Ibrahim was born in Somalia and began his career as
a commercial pilot for Somali Airlines. He graduated from the Policy Fellows
Program at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School and is now working on a
PhD in Evaluation Studies at the U of M.
Ibrahim says, “I have always loved serving people,
and working at DEED has given me the opportunity to do that. Every day is an
opportunity to contribute to the well-being of the community. You cannot
imagine the feeling when a customer comes back with a big smile and declares ‘I
got a job.’ It is an honor to be part of that and to be in a position to serve
According to Ibrahim, one of the biggest challenges facing the state is employment disparity. “The
demographics of the state are not the same as they were 20 years ago. That is
why it is important to think about long-term strategies so that we aren’t
playing catch-up later. Investing in human capital is important.”
On Friday, February 13, over 250 youth-serving
professionals, community leaders, and youth gathered for the fifth annual
Minneapolis PARTNERS With Youth Conference.
Bringing together leading experts and practitioners
in the youth-work field, the conference proved to be an excellent opportunity for
youth work professionals and young people to network and share experiences. A
wide variety of workshops and presenters offered inspiration, information, and
The event kicked-off with a welcome by Minneapolis
Mayor Betsy Hodges who declared, “I am grateful that we have the Minneapolis
PARTNERS With Youth Conference to pull together the best and brightest in the
field of youth development to further our commitment to our young people.”
A keynote address by Minneapolis Afterschool Network
Project Director Fatima Muhammad introduced “What’s Up 612!,” a new online
citywide program to help youth and families find afterschool activities for
The conference was sponsored by City of Minneapolis
Employment and Training, City of Minneapolis Health Department, Minneapolis
Youth Coordinating Board, National Forum for Youth Violence Prevention, and