A Minneapolis manufacturing company has decided to leave the city, with the company's owner saying he can't trust public officials who allowed his plant to burn during the recent riots. The move will cost the city about 50 jobs.
"They don't care about my business," said Kris Wyrobek, president and owner of 7-Sigma Inc., which has operated since 1987 at 2843 26th Av. in south Minneapolis. "They didn't protect our people. We were all on our own."
Wyrobek said the plant, which usually operates until 11 p.m., shut down about four hours early on the first night of the riots because he wanted to keep his workers out of harm's way. He said a production supervisor and a maintenance worker who live in the neighborhood became alarmed when fire broke out at the $30 million Midtown Corner affordable housing apartment complex that was under construction next door.
"The fire engine was just sitting there," Wyrobek said, "but they wouldn't do anything."
Two days after the riots began, Gov. Tim Walz described the city's response as an "abject failure." Walz ordered the National Guard into Minneapolis to restore order at the request of Mayor Jacob Frey. The violence sometimes overshadowed peaceful protests over the death last month of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Frey said Monday that he was unaware of 7-Sigma's decision to move, and he declined to say whether the company's decision reflects the challenges facing city leaders as they try to convince business owners to rebuild in Minneapolis. Many business owners have criticized the city, saying their pleas for help went unanswered.
Frey said the city was overwhelmed by the riots. He said every fire truck was operating during the protests.
"This was a Guard-sized crisis and demanded a Guard-sized response," Frey said. "And once we had the full presence of the National Guard — which by the way hasn't been deployed since World War II — there was a significantly different result."
The city's first survey of property damage shows that nearly 1,000 commercial properties in Minneapolis were damaged during the riots, including 52 businesses that were completely destroyed and 30 other locations that sustained severe damage.
Owners and insurance experts estimate the costs of the damage could exceed $500 million. That would make the Twin Cities riots the second-costliest civil disturbance in U.S. history, trailing only those in Los Angeles in 1992, which were also sparked by racial tensions with police and had $1.4 billion in damages in today's dollars.
To accelerate the recovery, Frey announced Monday the creation of Minneapolis Forward: Community Now Coalition, which includes representatives of local business and community groups. Frey said the group will seek input from black residents and business owners to make sure rebuilding efforts accommodate their needs.
"George Floyd moved to Minneapolis for a fresh start," Frey said. "In honoring his memory and generations of black people who have been victimized before him, we will rebuild as a stronger, more equitable and more inclusive city."
Frey said the coalition will seek financial help from a broad range of private and public partners, but he refused to say how much money the city of Minneapolis is willing to commit to the rebuilding effort, saying that would be "premature." He said the group does not yet have a fundraising goal.
"The city will need to do its part, as well," said Frey, noting that he will request that any new permits or license be "expedited as much as possible."
Wyrobek said it is too late to keep his company in the city. 7-Sigma is a leader in the production of precision rollers used in high-speed printing systems used to produce bank statements and social security checks.
When asked if he thought of relocating before the riots, Wyrobek said, "not in my wildest nightmare." On Monday, he was sorting through the remnants of his business, figuring out how to get up and running again.
"We are cautiously optimistic we can do that," he said. "But we are certainly not able to do that in Minneapolis."