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Manufacturer that burned as Minneapolis protests turned violent plans to relocate from city

Minneapolis Star Tribune logo Minneapolis Star Tribune 6/8/2020 By Jeffrey Meitrodt, Star Tribune

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 second 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 stuck around to keep watch over the business. He said they 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, but they wouldn't do anything," Wyrobek said. "That's the frustrating thing to us."

Shortly after the riots, Gov. Tim Walz described the city's response as an "abject failure."

In an interview last week, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the city was overwhelmed by the riots. He said every fire truck was operating during the protests.

"We were on our own those first few nights," Frey said. "There were simply more people destroying property, more people setting fires, than any city government could respond to at once."

The Star Tribune recently obtained the city's first survey of property damage, which shows that nearly 1,000 commercial properties in Minneapolis were damaged during the riots, including 52 businesses that were completely destroyed.

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.

Frey is scheduled to hold a news conference later Monday to announce the formation of a rebuilding effort called he Minneapolis Forward: Community Now Coalition, whose mission is to "accelerate repair and recovery efforts in Minneapolis."

Frey will be bringing together leaders from the business community, as well as local foundations and community organizations. In a news release, the mayor said he is also bringing together a Minneapolis African-American Commission on Economic Inclusion to provide rebuilding direction and support to the mayor and city leaders. Frey said that group will provide feedback that is "unfiltered through the lenses of non-Black people."

Wyrobek said it is "too late" to keep his company in the city.

"We are sorting through the rubble, trying to figure out how to get this operational again," Wyrobek said. "We are cautiously optimistic we can do that. But we are certainly not able to do that in Minneapolis."

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. The company also makes mannequins used in medical training programs.

Jeffrey Meitrodt • 612-673-4132

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©2020 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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