MINNEAPOLIS—Northwestern Tire Co., a passenger and truck tire dealership, is one of the first four Minneapolis businesses to win a grant from the Minneapolis Community Development Agency for hiring inner-city workers. The MCDA program began two years ago, as the State of Minnesota's response to the Clinton administration's drive to develop inner cities economically and reduce unemployment.
For its part in the program, Northwestern Tire received 20 percent of the first-year wages of an employee hired from the ``enterprise community'' area around Glenwood Avenue in Minneapolis, where Northwestern's store is located.
Early in January, the four companies received nearly $50,000 in first-year-wage reimbursement, out of $275,000 available in the agency's pilot program. Northwestern Tire received $4,462, according to the MCDA.
The other three companies were Award Baking International, NiCo Products and Twin City Sign Co.
Participation in the program helps employers and employees alike, according to Mary Gallager, who co-owns Northwestern Tire with her husband Tim.
``We like hiring from the area,'' Ms. Gallager said. ``But the grant from the MCDA helps us to hire people who are not trained, and perhaps have a language barrier. It helps with the cost of training.
``We're a commercial tire store, but we also handle truck tires, and there's a lot more to changing and servicing truck tires than there is to passenger tire service,'' she added.
Early in his first term, President Clinton championed a plan to create ``empowerment zones'' and ``enterprise communities'' as target areas for urban economic development, according to Bob Lind, MCDA manager of business finance. Inner-city Minneapolis was one of 65 urban areas designated as an enterprise community because of high unemployment.
Under the rules of the MCDA program, employers who hire workers from the enterprise community at a wage of at least $8.08 per hour, and who keep them for at least one year, are entitled to a 20-percent reimbursement of the wages paid to those employees.
Northwestern Tire hired two workers from the neighborhood at the beginning of last year, according to Ms. Gallager. One left shortly thereafter, but the other stayed the entire year and is still with Northwestern. Ms. Gallager called him ``an excellent worker.''
The Gallagers are so happy with the results of the program so far that they hired three other area workers recently, the third starting Feb. 17. With the new hiree, Ms. Gallager said, the company now has 14 employees.
The MCDA said it is preparing to make a second round of grants.