Ms. McDonald Goes to Washington, pt1

Entrance Hall with Band


This is part 1 of a 3 part piece from Bonnie’s trip to Washington, DC. Hope you enjoy!

An e-mail showed up in my inbox on April 5 that I first took as the mark of a clever spammer.  “On behalf of President Obama, we would like to invite you and a guest to a reception at the White House…” and it had an attachment.  “Hah,” I thought, “I’m not falling for that one!” and I filed it away in the endless trash bin awaiting a digital death in the black abyss.  Yes, I admit to this now with great embarrassment that I mistook an official White House invitation as spam.

The way that I discovered this was NOT spam was through a phone call from Robin Sternberg, Director of the Job Creation Initiative at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).  Robin left me a message that I should expect to get an invitation from the White House.  My inner monologue screamed, “HOLY COW, that was real!” and I retrieved that invitation from the trash.  Then, I set about finding out why I would be invited to the White House to meet President Obama.

My gratitude goes to Robin, as she is the person who forwarded my name as the recipient of a once-in-a-lifetime honor.  It began when the White House Office of Public Engagement decided to host a series of “Community Leaders Briefing” meetings to both promote new White House initiatives and to gather direct feedback from those on-the-ground.  I can only surmise that they reached out to specific legislative contacts like Robin to identify community leaders working in areas of interest to the Administration, like job creation, for example.  Robin sent forth my name, as well as at least three others representing the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors engaged in job creation programs.

That’s right—historic preservation is recognized as job creation worthy of a trip to the White House.  What a shot in the arm for the merits of historic preservation!  Alright, I have to back-up one more step and explain but, for the efforts of the Building Jobs Coalition, this trip probably wouldn’t have happened.  The Building Jobs Coalition is a coalition of trades unions, contractors, municipalities, and designers concerned with creating jobs in the construction sector; through its efforts, we were able to ensure passage of the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Tax Credit in 2010.  As Chair of the Building Jobs Coalition’s Public Policy Subcommittee (aka Delta Force), I have had the pleasure of working with this dedicated group of citizens that successfully advocated for the Job Stimulus Bill last year.  This year, we’ve worked with Robin to identify job creation strategies and incentives to bring to the Legislature, Governor Dayton, and DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips.

I believe Robin identified me to deliver a message of successful coalition-building and the need to unlock the credit market to make construction—including historic preservation projects—feasible.  The lack of access to capital is arguably the greatest challenge the Building Jobs Coalition has identified as preventing construction in Minnesota and this can only be addressed at the federal banking regulation level.  So, it was off to Washington I go to be a voice for Minnesotans trying to make a difference and regenerate the construction industry. Tune in tomorrow to hear about my arrival at the White House!

Click to see Part II

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