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N. Minneapolis named 'Promise Zone' in hopes of invigorating neighborhood

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Minneapolis was named a federal Promise Zone Tuesday, which means the neighborhood will have a better chance of getting federal grants to improve public safety and boost the local economy.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement at the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) Tuesday morning.

The Minneapolis Promise Zone encompasses much of North Minneapolis, the program notes. This area of the city has high unemployment, gun violence, housing blight and poor education outcomes – 25 percent of the area's population that's 25 or older does not have a high school degree or GED.

"This is not a gift, it's an investment," Duncan said, adding the goal is to eliminate the "opportunity gap" in the neighborhood, the Star Tribune reports.

Duncan recently highlighted the challenges North Minneapolis family has faced in a speech about the anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, other local politicians, and NAZ leaders and partners were among those who attended Tuesday morning's announcement.

President Barack Obama announced the Promise Zone program in his 2013 State of the Union speech. The Northside Achievement Zone was one of eight areas in the nation to be named Promise Zones Tuesday.

What it means for the north side

The city decided to apply for the Promise Zone designation last fall following a heated debate during a city council meeting. Many members said they were skeptical about the initiative due in part to the fact there is no actual guarantee you get funding.

Being a Promise Zone does give the neighborhood priority for receiving grants, as well as AmericCORPS volunteers and other federal assistance, the Star Tribune says.

The city hopes this designation will help the area reduce racial inequities, create jobs, increase economic activity, reduce violent crimes, improve educational outcomes and support stable housing, the program says.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, released a statement Tuesday saying he is proud to see the community's new designation, adding:

"The announcement today means the federal government will invest to expand the capacity and success of our robust local network that works to provide opportunities for youth, expand educational opportunities, and promote peace and safety."

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