Saint Paul , United States

Revitalizing Neighbourhood Economies

Neighborhood Development Center (NDC)

May 22, 2015

Empowering local entrepreneurs to transform lives and revitalize their own neighbourhoods

Neighborhood Development Center NDC

Neighborhood Development Center NDC

“We came to NDC with bad credit, no education…and they believed in our idea and they believed in us…” Haiyen and Neeson Vang, owners of The Clearance Rack, a thriving NDC-assisted business

Access to capital is a common challenge faced by immigrant and low-income entrepreneurs like the Vangs who do not have the assets to invest in their own business ideas and are often unable to qualify for a bank loan. The lack of education and training, often bundled with cultural and language barriers, makes it hard to know where to begin.

For over two decades,the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) has successfully addressed these challenges and supported entrepreneurs in low-income and ethnic communities across the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul by providing training, helping develop businesses and creating jobs in the community, in addition to creating and developing incubators for entrepreneurs.

A Changing workforce

Similar to other urban areas in the US and globally, Minneapolis-St. Paul has been experiencing profound demographic changes. While the immigrant population is lower than the national average (7 percent versus 13 percent), not only have the Twin Cities served as hubs of refugee resettlement but the region has twice the share of immigrants from South East Asia and five times the share of immigrants from Africa, when compared to the nation as a whole. The Twin Cities are also touted to be one of the metropolitan areas in the country with the most Hmong immigrants (mostly originating from Laos).

NDC was founded over two decades ago in the face of these changes, prompted by a deep commitment to stimulate economic activity in core areas of poverty and offer support to individuals, including ethnic and immigrant communities, in inner city neighbourhoods. Initially offering only business training, NDC quickly expanded its offerings to include small business financing, on-going business coaching, and real estate services.

Since 1993, close to 5,000 aspiring entrepreneurs have received training which seeks to provide them with an understanding of how to start and operate a business. These 20-week long entrepreneur training programs are offered in five languages in various neighbourhoods. Free NDC workshops also provide business development skills to existing entrepreneurs.

NDC works closely with entrepreneurs from day one to understand their business needs, their long-term plans to grow and improve their business, the risks associated with their request, and the strategies they have in place to mitigate those risks.

Mihailo Temali, NDC’s Founder and CEO, believes in getting fully behind the entrepreneurs. “Not doing micro entrepreneurship training nor taking medium or high risk in order to have safer loans or generate more fees for lending, and inviting more capital takes away from being able to truly support low-income entrepreneurs of colour and immigrant entrepreneurs. I think it is important to work with low-income micro-entrepreneurs who require a considerable amount of training and business support.”

Target services for neighbourhoods

The organization maximizes the impact of its program by focusing 80 percent of its resources in four of the highest-need neighbourhoods in the Twin Cities. NDC seeks to create dynamic “hubs” of community revitalization through physical concentration, i.e. clustering the businesses in highly visible areas in their own neighbourhood, within a commercial corridor or beside public markets.

Working partnerships are developed with community organizations to achieve community-specific goals in each neighbourhood. “We build connections through a long list of community partners. These organizations are on the ground, trusted in their communities and bring people into their offices to start on the path to entrepreneurship,” says Temali. Since 1993, NDC has partnered with more than 30 community organizations in targeted Twin Cities neighbourhoods to identify, reach out, train and develop entrepreneurs.

Comprehensive long-term wrap-around services are provided for teaching, financing and supporting the entrepreneurs through their journey. The organization has very diverse culturally competent staff, representing the communities being served, operating in seven languages on a daily basis.

NDC prides itself on lending in culturally-appropriate ways. In 2001, a Sharia-compliant small business financing product was offered to meet the needs of the Muslim community. In Islamic law charging interest to borrowers – which is called “reba”- is prohibited. NDC has received many awards for creating the first Sharia-compliant financing program in the United States.

Targeted real estate development projects are undertaken to transform strategically located commercial buildings into small business incubators that provide tenants with stable, affordable places to do business, while serving as catalysts for the revitalization of neighbourhoods. NDC offers lending and consulting services to tenants of these properties. NDC has developed six business incubators in the last decade with 124 businesses operating within these incubators.


The Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) was one of four 2013 winners of the Migration Policy Institute’s E Pluribus Unum Prize honouring exceptional immigrant integration initiatives. The EPU citation states “NDC has earned a place at the leading edge of practice in both the community development and immigrant integration fields, has worked in 25 diverse low-income neighbourhoods in St. Paul and Minneapolis since 1993, providing training to more than 4,250 entrepreneurs, including nearly 1,500 immigrants; $10 million in small business financing, nearly half to new and existing immigrant-owned businesses; and 40,000 hours of consulting to small businesses.”

Today there are more than 500 NDC-assisted diverse local businesses in operation ranging from a construction and demolition waste removal business and a midwifery to a craft brewery. NDC-assisted businesses employ close to 2,500 people at an average wage of $17/hour.

NDC has helped create dynamic, bustling marketplaces like Hmong Village, a vibrant economic, social and cultural gathering spot, which houses more than 300 small businesses that sell fresh produce, gifts and prepared foods while employing hundreds of community residents. Not only does the market build bridges within the Hmong community but it also serves to introduce the Hmong culture to the diverse residents of the Twin Cities.

The NDC model has been replicated in Detroit, Michigan, and the organization is about to create a national network to share its success and enable peer learning with groups in Detroit, New York City, Philadelphia, Syracuse and New Orleans, in addition to bringing micro lending and training to small rural Minnesota towns.  In 2015, NDC became a founding member of the WE Global Network, a regional network of immigrant economic development organizations working in cities and regions across the Midwest. The ‘welcoming economies’ Network is a project of  Welcoming America, and led by  Global Detroit.

Temali attributes NDC’s success to respect for all people and communities, and the talent they bring. “The starting point is the recognition that the individuals in these communities have assets and talent – very commonly they are looked at as having liabilities and problems. We look at the part of the glass that’s half full. If you’re not starting from that point, nothing else matters.”

Making it Work for You:

  • Relationships of trust are the core of a successful lending program. Take the time to understand the community you are working with and connect financial innovation to community values and needs
  • Work through the existing network of community organizations to gain trust and widen your reach; work with and hire multicultural staff representing the communities you are trying to serve
  • Highlight the positive impact of your work on individuals and communities through storytelling and promotional campaigns to inspire and reach out to other aspiring entrepreneurs, and help stimulate your local economy

For this Good Idea contact:

Mihailo Temali, Founder and CEO , Neighborhood Development Center
663 University Avenue, Suite 200
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA,

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