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DEED Names New Assistant Commissioner

Karen Francois will head newly created Office of Career and Business Opportunity

4/20/2016 11:26:33 AM

Madeline O'Phelan, 651-259-7236

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has named Karen Francois to serve as assistant commissioner of the Office of Career and Business Opportunity.

The new DEED office was created by Gov. Mark Dayton to help workers and businesses of color find career paths and business opportunities in Minnesota. The office will identify and help break down barriers that have contributed to economic disparities for communities of color throughout the state.

Francois, who has served in key leadership positions with the city of Minneapolis for the past four years, will report directly to the DEED commissioner and will be a member of the commissioner's senior leadership team. Her start date is May 4.

"Karen has a wealth of experience in addressing employment disparities and has a reputation for creating innovation solutions to complex problems," said DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben. "Her highly collaborative approach will be a strong addition to our management team, and will be highly effective in bringing key stakeholders together to work on addressing the state's most pressing issue."

"I'm grateful to Gov. Dayton for his vision of racial equity in Minnesota and excited about the opportunity to help make that vision a reality statewide," Francois said. "We are at a critical time where we need to get this done if Minnesota is to retain its economic vitality and prosperity."

The Office of Career and Business Opportunity will focus on four main areas:

Better career opportunities – Helping workers in communities of color access the training and resources they need to find good jobs that lead to successful careers.

Better business opportunities – Helping minority-owned businesses succeed in Minnesota's marketplace by providing access to resources and opportunities to start and expand their businesses.

Better business practices Helping Minnesota's business community develop and adopt hiring and contracting practices that expand opportunity for minority workers and businesses.

Better state government – Helping the Governor's Diversity and Inclusion Council identify and break down barriers to opportunities for workers and businesses of color within state government.

Francois has extensive public sector experience, working in the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights as the director of employment equity since January 2012 and the director of contract compliance since July 2013.

Under her leadership, inclusion of minority and women workers on city construction projects has steadily increased, and more than $60 million has been paid out to minority- and women-owned businesses over the last three years.

Francois also was the associate director of Women & Philanthropy at UCLA from 2005 to 2008 and was director of program development for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights from 2003 to 2005.

She has bachelor's degree in communications from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., and a mini-MBA certificate in nonprofit management from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

DEED is the state's principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more details about the agency and our services, visit us at the DEED website ( or go to our Twitter account (


Upon request, this information can be made available in alternate formats for people with disabilities by contacting the DEED Communications Office at 651-259-7161.

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