Mississippi Market teams up with community orgs to hire local

The Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, in partnership with Mississippi Market food co-op and the East Side Enterprise Center, have been doing job skills training in advance of an upcoming hiring fair for Mississippi Market’s new East Side Store. (photo courtesy of Dayton’s Bluff Community Council)
The Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, in partnership with Mississippi Market food co-op and the East Side Enterprise Center, have been doing job skills training in advance of an upcoming hiring fair for Mississippi Market’s new East Side Store. (photo courtesy of Dayton’s Bluff Community Council)
The new Mississippi Market is going up alongside several other developments on East Seventh Street in Dayton’s Bluff. The store expects to hold a grand opening in early September. (Patrick Larkin/Review)
The new Mississippi Market is going up alongside several other developments on East Seventh Street in Dayton’s Bluff. The store expects to hold a grand opening in early September. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Part of pilot program for Dayton’s Bluff council

If you’ve driven down East Seventh Street recently, it’s hard not to notice the prominent new construction that’s coming along.

Starting at the bottom end of the hill, there’s Metropolitan State University’s new parking ramp and student center. Just up the hill from there, crews just broke ground on a new senior housing project, and capping it off, the new Mississippi Market Food Co-op is looking nearly complete, with an opening scheduled for Sept. 2.

With the opening coming up, the food co-op is preparing to do some hiring, and managers said they are specifically interested in hiring East Siders.

During the planning stages for the project, residents expressed a variety of concerns about the store coming in, including worries of gentrification, speculation that the store’s prices wouldn’t be affordable for people living in Dayton’s Bluff, and worries that the new store would not hire residents from the neighborhood, or particularly people of color.

Assuaging at least one of those concerns, Deanna Abbott Foster, director of the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council and an organizer for the East Side Enterprise Center, reports that the food co-op is actively trying to hire residents.

In a partnership between the East Side Enterprise Center and the co-op, community organizers have canvassed Dayton’s Bluff, going door to door letting residents know that the store will be hiring, and informing them of an upcoming hiring fair on Friday, July 24 at the East Side Enterprise Center at 804 Margaret St., as well as two events leading up to that job fair.

By door-knocking, canvassers were able to talk directly to people who might be interested in working at the food market, or who at least would have relatives or friends who’d be interested in a position.

In advance of the hiring fair, the East Side Enterprise Center has put on two job preparation events, where interested people could get resume and cover letter help, as well as help filling out online forms they needed to apply.

Je Vang, talent and acquisitions specialist for Mississippi Market, said the store’s move to hire locals has been very intentional.

“It’s important for us to be able to reach out to the community,” he said. “Being an East Side resident myself, I know that the area is culturally rich in different ethnicities and different backgrounds.”

Abbott-Foster said the efforts have panned out so far. The first event in early July turned up about 50 people, all of whom were from the neighborhood, and at least 90 percent of whom were people of color.

They’ll vie for positions like part-time bakers and cashiers on up to shift leads, stockers, receivers and buyers, and grocery manager positions among others. In all, the co-op expects to hire 70 people before the store opens Sept. 2.

The jobs start at a little over $10 hour for lower-level positions, but after a three-month trial period, employees go up to 85 percent of the $12.82 living wage standard that St. Paul has set. After 2,000 hours at the co-op, even a cashier can be making $12.82.

Pilot program

The programming was set up with Mississippi Market in mind, but the idea will be to replicate the programming as other developments come in that bring jobs to the area.

The community council has made an agreement with the St. Paul Port Authority to pursue similar means of connecting locals with jobs that might move into Port Authority sites, such as the Beacon Bluff parcels along East Seventh Street and Phalen Boulevard.

Plenty of people in the neighborhood don’t have cars, she noted, so “having a local employer right in the neighborhood is wonderful.

“That’s what we’re trying to get,” she said, “the cultural communities that are in our neighborhood to be actively involved with the businesses that are located here.”

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

 

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