New businesses help reduce minority unemployment - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New businesses help reduce minority unemployment

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(KWWL) -

Governor Branstad is working on addressing the high number of minority unemployment in Iowa. Black Hawk County, and specifically Waterloo, is one of the struggling communities that is working to curb the problem. 

Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds have created a subcommittee of the State Workforce Development Board to address disparities in the minority unemployment rate in Iowa.

According to latest Census information, Iowa's statewide unemployment rate was 3.9 percent, while African Americans had an unemployment rate of 14.2 percent, Native Americans had a rate of 11 percent, Asian Americans has a rate of 5.3 percent and Hispanic Americans had a rate of 8.1 percent for the same time period.

Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart is on the subcommittee. In Waterloo, there have been a number of projects revitalizing certain parts of town, but they're serving more purpose than just a new look for the city. 

One of those places is Speller's True Value hardware store. Before the store opened up on Waterloo's East side, the area used to be a rather empty part of town.

Owner Allen Speller says the East side needed change. 

"Positive change," said Speller. "We've gotten new stores in this area, but they're usually the same convenience store, liquor store or a dollar store. Things that we're used to. We haven't had a hardware store on this side of town in years."

One of his employees, Reuben Stigler, has seen what used to be a booming area wither over time. 

"We don't have anything over here," said Stigler. "Back in years back, as a child coming up. This street was loaded with businesses from the tracks all the way down to the red light. We had grocery stores, hardware store drug stores, meat markets."

All nine of Spellers employees are minorities. 

Mayor Hart says Speller's True Value is a stepping stone in solving the problem of minority unemployment. 

"Providing jobs, family-friendly business, and it brings the community together," said Hart. "And it also restores some hope that there's other potential, there's other opportunities."

Hart said another step in solving the jobless problem is making sure people in these communities have access to higher education and certifications to meet the demands of the current job market. 

Black Hawk County is one of the four pilot counties for this program. Dubuque county, as well as Polk and Pottawattamie counties are also included.

The goal of the subcommittee is to reduce unemployment in minority communities by five percent in five years. 

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