Month: September 2015

By the Numbers: Minneapolis’ Unemployment Rate

Photo Courtesy of - Downtown Minneapolis
Photo Courtesy of – Downtown Minneapolis from 35 W

Minneapolis, along with the rest of the United States, just recently weathered the great recession. At the height of the great recession, its unemployment rate was about 10 percent. Today, it is less than four percent and about two percentage points less than the national average according to the Department of Numbers.

So how does Minneapolis compare to the rest of the cities in the United States? Another way to find the answer to this question is rephrase the question. How does the metropolitan area that includes Minneapolis compare to the rest of the metropolitan areas in the United States? And why is this important?

First, one of the prerequisites to a healthy city is to consider and address its unemployment rate and number of unemployed. For example, and in the case of Minneapolis, the unemployment rate in June 2015 was 3.6 percent. In addition,

the total number of unemployed decreased from 72,222 workers in May to 69,581 workers in June.

And according to the United States Census Bureau, Minneapolis had a population of more than 400 thousand in 2014 which was an increase of approximately 7 thousand residents. Subsequently, Minneapolis residency has been growing since 2010. Although the number of unemployed has been bouncing between a minimum of approximately 66 thousand and a maximum of approximately 72 thousand, the unemployment percentage and number of unemployed has been fairly stable and restricted in its respective ranges, while still trending downward over the long term.

A second reason for why this is important is because it illustrates the relationship between the small and large businesses in the area, their willingness and need to fill labor and management positions by employing local citizens (workers), and in return the qualifications of skills and credentials of the local work force to be able to fill those positions. Hence, this relationship between the firms (businesses) and labor (workers) in the market place perpetuates a thriving and healthy economy which in turn perpetuates revenues for the businesses and utility for the workers.

Photo Courtesy of the Department of Numbers - Minneapolis Unemployment Rate
Photo Courtesy of the Department of Numbers – Minneapolis Unemployment Rate

Of course not all residents of Minnapolis are employable or are employed for various reasons. However, for those who are, the vast majority of them are employed as illustrated by the unemployment rate, or rather the employment rate of more than 96 percent. Now back to the original question, how does the Twin Cities compare to the other metropolitan areas here in the United States?

Well actually, the Twin Cities is doing quite well. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, it ranks second in the nation, out of 51 metropolitan areas of 1 million or more residents, and only behind the Austin-Roundrock metropolitan area. Not too bad considering the city was sitting at an unemployment rate of about 10 percent and an unemployment population of about 150 thousand a little more than 5 years ago. So by deducation, Minneapolis is doing pretty well in its unemployment compared to the other American cities here in the United States. But despite this success, Minneapolis and its surrounding areas still have some discrepancies in the economic environment (market place).

First, the unemployment rate for “black” Minnesota citizens is approximately 4 times higher than “white” Minnesota citizens according to an article in the City Pages published back in March of this year. Second, there are two assumptions that this author is prepared to make. First, there is a correlation between crime and unemployment (clearly this is not a stretch). And second, if one takes the time to decompose the economic numbers in greater depth, one should find that a part of the unemployment discrepancy between “whites” and “blacks” in the case of Minneapolis is access to educational opportunities, which in turn provides access to those professions that pay higher wages such as science, engineering, and finance. But these are considerations for future articles.

The main point here is that Minneapolis is doing pretty well according to the numbers. It may not be perfect, but the opportunities are there. And if the right policies are implemented by the Minneapolis city council with consideration for how those policies will affect the respective economic environments of Minneapolis along with its respective groups of citizens, then Minneapolis will have no where to go but up.



South Minneapolis Boundaries, Revisited

Photo Courtesy of - Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha in South Minneapolis
Photo Courtesy of – Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha in South Minneapolis

In a previous article titled I got this, South Minneapolis, I made an argument for the cultural boundaries of South Minneapolis. I based my premise on two things. First, my own experiences as a baseball player travelling the city parks from little league through high school. And second, from the language espoused by adults and children alike from South Minneapolis. Both were a part of the fabric of my growth; and both deeply influenced the way I viewed not just South Minneapolis, but South Minneapolis compared to the other parts of the city.

But these artificial, and physical, boundaries made possible through culture only explain one part of the whole picture. This picture is much more complex and interactive than one realizes, or may only realize in hindsight.

Culturally, the boundary of South Minneapolis ranges from Lyndale Avenue in the central part of the city to the Mississippi river. In addition, Franklin avenue, just south of I-94, is South Minneapolis’ northern boundary whereas Crosstown, or highway 62, is the southern boundary of the area. But these are not the political boundaries. To view this another way, the city of Minneapolis does not recognize South Minneapolis as its own political entity, but does acknowledge it as one of the five primary neighborhoods in Minneapolis. In fact, South Minneapolis is a collection of a number of different neighborhoods and wards that reside solely in South Minneapolis and that overlap and intersect with other parts of the city.

For example, South Minneapolis is composed of

  1. Ward 2 and its neighborhoods: Cooper, Seward, and Longfellow
  2. Ward 6 and its neighborhoods: Cedar Riverside, Elliot Park, Phillips West, Seward, Steven’s Square, and Ventura Village
  3. Ward 8 and its neighborhoods: Bancroft, Bryant, Field, King Field, Lyndale, and Regina
  4. Ward 9 and its neighborhoods: Central, Corcoran, East Phillips, Midtown Phillips, Longfellow, and Powderhorn Park
  5. Ward 10 and its neighborhood: Whittier
  6. Ward 11 and its neighborhoods: Diamond Lake, Hale, Keewaydin, Northrop, Page,  Tangletown, Wenonah, and Windom, and
  7. Ward 12 and its neighborhoods: Ericsson, Hiawatha, Howe, Keewaydin, Minnehaha, Morris, and Standish.
Photo Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis
Photo Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis

This is where the boundaries of culture and political body diverge. This may seem trivial to some, but it is important to understand nonetheless. And there are a number of reasons for this importance. Two are mentioned here. First, is cultural. Although residents of Minneapolis are the residents of one city, South Minneapolis has its own distinct pride in its existence and culture. It is a quiet and tranquil place full of successful small businesses. Some of these businesses are neighborhood gems like A Baker’s Wife in the Standish neighborhood or Matt’s Bar in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood. But none of Minneapolis’ 9 Forbes 1000 companies reside in South Minneapolis. This economic success despite the lack of large corporate representation will be discussed in greater depth in future articles.

Second, is political. According to the above composition of the area, South Minneapolis has seven council members representing it in its respective parts. And in turn, each respective ward representative, from the southern part of the city, deals with the same challenges, similar challenges, or completely different challenges as the other ward members depending on the situation.

For example, the engineering health and maintenance and economic vitality of the Metro Transit Blue-Line not only affects the utility of the neighborhoods it travels through, but it also directly affects the decisions of three of the current council members: Council members Alondra Cano, Andrew Johnson, and Abdi Warsame of the 9th, 12th, and 6th Wards, respectively. In contrast, and whereas the Blue-Line affects the other wards and neighborhoods indirectly, each of the thirteen city council members have a part to play in the minimum wage discussions and outcomes, which directly affect the utility of all thirteen wards in Minneapolis.

There are two things that ought to be understood from this short article. First, the cultural boundaries of South Minneapolis are not the same as the political boundaries or the neighborhood boundaries of South Minneapolis. Second, and even within South Minneapolis, there are differences and similarities in cultural, economic, and political perspectives. The differences in culture may seem like a contradiction, but in fact it is a distinction between the subtleties of one neighborhood compared to another neighborhood, say Standish and Diamond Lake or Central and Morris. But overall, South Minneapolis definitely has its own personality and this is precisely the point.




Fika: Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub

Photo Courtesy of Urban Dynamics - Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub
Photo Courtesy of Urban Dynamics – Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub


Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub, or otherwise known as Northbound, is a South Minneapolis, Standish Neighborhood brewpub. It is a fairly new local business which opened on September 20, 2012. But in that short time, it has made quite an impression on the neighborhood. In 2013, after only being open for about five months, the local brewpub “won the City Pages Best Brewpub award.” And in 2014, the brewpub “won the City Pages Best Neighborhood Bar.”

Northbound has a house selection of microbrews such as the Big Jim, Light Rail Pale Ale, Honey Wheat, and Smokehouse Porter which are served year round and very tasty.  And they offer seasonal beers as well. The brewpub also offers a selective menu of sandwiches and appetizers to complement that tasty housebrew of choice.

Northbound Burger

For this review, and during my evening out with my family, I had the Northbound burger with mushrooms and cheddar cheese along with the house fries (this is my augmented mushroom and swiss burger). I also complemented my meal with the Big Jim, which is a hoppy and tasty Indian Pale Ale (See the slideshow below). Indeed, if you enjoy an IPA as much I do, then this beer will not disappoint. I enjoy matching my meals with my beer. It is an amateur chemist’s way of enhancing the meal with the proper food and bear combination.

The Northbound burger is good burger. It is a

House-seasoned and hand pattied Certified Angus Beef® served with lettuce, tomato, and mayo on an egg bun.

To be clear, it is not the best burger that I have ever had, but it is a very good burger – much better than average – and worth going back for; and this burger has actually improved in taste and quality since my last visit. However, I cannot say the same thing for the fries. If there was a downside to the meal, it was definitely the house fries. They are not bad, but they are not great either. The onion rings are far superior and worth the price. The Northbound burger is not the only tasty and worthwhile choice. As my cousin stated during dinner

Everything on the menu looks like something I could eat.

This is true. And I must admit, this is not my first time eating at Northbound. My previous visit included the combination of the 18-Hour Porketta sandwich, onion rings, and Smokehouse Porter, for example. What a wonderful combination. The sandwich and beer are a perfect combination and a great example of utilizing that amateur chemist’s technique.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Final Thoughts

It is not just a place just for adults. During my early evening outing with my family to the brewpub, there were quite a few couples in attendance with their young children. It is definitely a comfortable place for families and singles alike. In addition, Northbound added an outdoor canopy for its patio (the microbrew consists of indoor and outdoor seating during the warmer months). This is a great addition for both aesthetic and practical applications.

Northbound is not a trendy place. It is a popular, neighborhood brewpub within walking distance of the Blue Line 38th St. station. But expect this microbrew to be patronized mostly by locals.

Finally, the beer and food is a bit pricey. Expect to pay between $20 and $25 per person for a sandwich, onions or fries, and two beers. Think of it as a treat to yourself for a job well done during the week.

I give Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Author’s Notes:

  1. Northbound is located on 2716 E 38th St. Minneapolis, MN 55406; on the corner of 28th Ave. and 38th St.
  2. After 65 reviews, Northbound has a grade of 4.7 out of 5 stars on Google Reviews.
  3. After 200 reviews, Northbound has a grade of 4.0 out of 5 stars on Yelp.
  4. For you vegetarians, the Wild Rice burger is a tasty and worthwhile experience according to my father.


Fika: Longfellow Grill

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of


For those nature lovers, an early afternoon dinner followed by a late afternoon walk along the Mississippi river is what makes South Minneapolis, and Minneapolis in general, so special. The founders of the Falls of St. Anthony had a vision and intuitively, they truly knew that Minneapolis would become that special place.

On the corner of East Lake Street and the West River Parkway, Longfellow Grill is a local, South Minneapolis “urban diner.” And it has an urban feel to it. For example, there is the rush hour traffic on East Lake Street in the middle afternoon; there is the proximity to the local neighborhoods (Longfellow Grill sits adjacent to the West River Commons apartment complex); there is the access to the beautiful and world renown Minneapolis parkway system; and there is the Mississippi river not more than a couple hundred feet away from the restaurant itself.

The Buffalo Burger

My father invited me out for Wednesday dinner. I asked him what he was thinking and he listed off a few places on the south side. One recommendation happened to be the Longfellow Grill. That struck a curious chord. I was in the mood for breakfast, specifically Bridgeman’s (near the Minnehaha Falls). I have always loved diner breakfast. But like I said, I was intrigued by this new place.

I asked him where it was at and what kind of food they served. He replied, “It’s on East Lake Street and the parkway. They serve breakfast and burgers.” So we headed over to East Lake Street.

We arrived in the late afternoon. It was a Wednesday. Afternoon traffic was coming tappering off. Parking was easy to find, especially if you are from the south side. We pulled off on one of the side streets just before the East Lake/Parkway intersection. My father and I both grew up on the south side, so we knew that the side streets in Minneapolis were available, quiet, and free. It was a two minute walk.

As soon as we walked into the restaraunt, we knew it was busy. We had just missed the afternoon Happy Hour rush. I approached the counter. The young ladies who worked there were polite. They took my name and cell number. They asked me if we wanted to sit inside or out in the patio. I told them the patio. They told me it would be about a 20 to 25 minute wait and that they would text me as soon as the table was ready. My father and I were seated at our table on the patio within about 10 minutes.

Photo Courtesy of Urban Dynamics - Bison Burger with seasoned fries and a Bell's Oberon Ale
Photo Courtesy of Urban Dynamics – Bison Burger with seasoned fries and a Bell’s Oberon Ale

The outside patio was very nice, spiffy, and no more than a hop, skip, and a jump from the parkway and river. It was definitely the type of place where a father and son could have a beer together, a group of friends could hang, a group of business men or women could conduct deals over food and drinks, and a young couple could spend their first date.

Our waiter’s name was Andrew. He was a nice guy. Attentive to our needs, he never left us for too long and was always diligent with our questions and needs. For example, when I asked for a recommendation for a summer beer, he suggested Bell’s Oberon Ale, although he also added that the summer beer selection was fairly small. I appreciated the honesty.

I ordered the “Bison Burger.” As the menu stated, the burger consisted of

NorthStar grassfed bison, candied walnuts, craisins, blue cheese, honey aioli, spring mix, [and] herb vinaigrette.

It was a tasty burger. Not one of the best bison burgers I have ever had – Buffalo Tap burgers are fantastic – but it was tasty nonetheless. As a fair rating, it was a middle of the road burger – not the best, but not the worst. But what made it intriguing was the combination of the blue cheese, craisins, walnuts, and other seasonings. That definitely hightened the experience. In addition, the fries were surprisingly good. They were seasoned with a season salt, pepper, and course salt blend. As Andrew explained, it was a company blend.

Final Thoughts

Longfellow Grill is the type of place where a person could go for a burger, beer, and a paper; and it is the type of place for everything in between. But it is also a trendy place; it has that feel, which is why it may not attract some of the more south side traditionalists. I understand and empathize. But it is nonetheless a South Minneapolis business, although it is not a South Minneapolis business in the same vein as A Baker’s Wife or Mel-O-Glaze.

It is a young business owned by David Burley and Stephanie Shimp who both started off as servers here in Minneapolis in the early 1990’s. They also own the Edina Grill, the Highland Grill, and a few other places around the metro area. So they have some experience in this industry and that experience is salient in how the Longfellow Grill is run.

I give Longfellow Grill a 3.8 out of 5 stars.

Author’s notes:

  1. Longfellow Grill is located at 2990 W River Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55406.
  2. My father was not real pleased with his meal. He had the Ham & Cheese Scramble.
  3. 4.0 Star rating out of 162 reviews on Yelp.
  4. 3.6 rating on Google out of 73 Google reviews.
  5. Bridgeman’s (near Minnehaha Falls) is no longer open.

Additional note, you can follow me on Twitter at @SystemsofChaos and you can follow me on Facebook.

I Got This, South Minneapolis!

Photo Courtesy of Urban Dynamics - Matt Johnson, South side boy
Photo Courtesy of Urban Dynamics – Matt Johnson, Standish neighborhood native, South Minneapolis

I grew up on the south side of Minneapolis in the Standish neighborhood. From the time I could walk to the time I shipped out to Navy boot camp, this little area of South Minneapolis was my neighborhood. It was my stomping ground.

As a young boy growing up in South Minneapolis, I attended Erickson Elementary, Bancroft Elementary, Folwell Jr. High, and Roosevelt High School. These schools resided in different neighborhoods, but it was still South Minneapolis. In addition, and during that time, I played baseball.

I played a year for Lake Hiawatha and the remainder of my little league time was spent playing for Sibley Park. My teammates and I were, and I am not being hyperbolic, a little powerhouse in South Minneapolis. I later played ball for Roosevelt High School’s summer programs: Jr. Babe Ruth, VFW, and American Legion 1149. I also played ball for the spring high school teams from freshman all the way through varsity. I was behind the plate for nearly twelve years; and I was used to taking notes. And during my time playing in South Minneapolis, I acquired quite a bit of geographical knowledge concerning the South Minneapolis boundaries and Minneapolis beyond.

During this entire time, I came to know Minneapolis as four basic areas: Southwest Minneapolis, South Minneapolis, North Minneapolis, and Northeast Minneapolis. I generally, and I do not think this is uncommon, viewed Uptown, Downtown, and the U of M Campus as distinct localities outside of the four main localities (sections). My general knowledge of these four sections became salient through my days playing ball.

My respective teams not only played ball in South Minneapolis, but my teams also traveled to the other three perceived areas of the city: Southwest Minneapolis, North Minneapolis, and Northeast Minneapolis. We viewed different areas of the city by the Minneapolis parks, but these were our unofficial perspectives accepted by fans, players, and coaches alike. For example, when we traveled to other parks, we perceived certain parks to be in certain parts of the city and it was salient in our team language, our language as young boys, and eventually our language as young men who grew up on the south side. Indeed, this language and knowledge from this language became a part of the South Minneapolis culture and consciousness.

Photo Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis
Photo Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis

If we were scheduled to play ball at Armatage or Lynnhurst, we knew we were heading to southwest Minneapolis. If we had a ball game against a team from northwest Minneapolis, which was a bit more rare at that age, and we had to travel, we knew the game would be played at Waite park or Windom park. And if we were scheduled to play ball at Folwell park or Fairview park, which was extremely rare, we knew we were heading to north Minneapolis. For us, those parks and neighborhoods resided in the other three corners of Minneapolis. For us, Powderhorn, Phillips, Lake Hiawatha and Longfellow, for example, were South Minneapolis parks.

This geographic and historical narrative illustrates that South Minneapolis is real and salient in language and context. It is indeed an unofficial title according to the City of Minneapolis, but it is nonetheless official to those who reside on the south side. So is it incorrect for residents of South Minnepolis to view themselves as a distinct locality of Minneapolis?

Today, I am no longer a baseball player. I played my last game five years ago for a Townball team in Southern California. Thus my playing days are long over. But now I am a systems scientist. That is, I am interested in systems, their dynamic qualities, and how they emerge and function. My field of interest is urban dynamics. That is academic mumbo jumbo for, “The urban environment is my scientific playground. I got this.”

Maybe it is telling that after careful reflection, my education, and my experience of growing up on the south side, which all allow me to view this systems problem with some very special tools at my disposal, I view south Minneapolis in a very interesting way. Thus, I will make the systems science argument that south Minneapolis is a distinct sub-system, urban environment, with its own distinct economic, political, and social make up. This will be what Ludwig Von Bertalanfy calls a social system construct. This system boundary also includes, but is certainly not limited to, economic, political, and social beliefs, perspectives, and applications. Other social considerations will be explored in future articles. All of these components in the South Minneapolis system help to differentiate south Minneapolis socially as its own distinct sub-system (section) of Minneapolis compared to the other sub-systems (sections) of Minneapolis. What about geographical considerations?

Photo Courtesy of Urbn Dynamics - Your's Truly!
Photo Courtesy of Urbn Dynamics – Your’s Truly!

For this I will use the Minneapolis city map provided by the City of Minneapolis. I will set the artificial boundaries to reflect my personal experiences (including biases), history, and knowledge of the city. First, south Minneapolis encompasses all of the neighborhoods from Lyndale Avenue to the Mississippi river. This will be our west to east geographical boundaries. Second, south Minneapolis will include all the neighborhoods from Franklin avenue south to crosstown (that’s Highway 62 for you newbies). For the southern boundary, we will follow cross town to Fort Snelling and the river. For right now, this will give us an approximation of the southern border. Boundary intersections will be considered and revised later.

As a systems scientist, I need to first make the general argument for South Minneapolis; that is, it is a sub-system of the Minneapolis system. The most important thing in this article was to introduce myself. The second most important thing was to address the boundary problem. This is an important problem in systems science. But as I develop the argument and the system over time, the boundaries, along with the philosophical arguments and scientific evidence, will make more sense and the area known as South Minneapolis will become more and more salient. Bottom line, I got this, South Minneapolis!