Julian Ocampo

Chai News and Views

By Bruce Corrie

I recently had lunch at the newly opened Los Ocampo restaurant in the Frogtown area of Saint Paul with Mike Temali, CEO and founder of the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC). Mike is well known for creating a unique economic space around neighborhood-based entrepreneurship. With the Wilder Foundation, NDC is able to document the many economic roles neighborhood entrepreneurs play, such as hiring and buying locally, and serving as role models and community builders. Now he is taking this model national, working with communities to replicate the NDC model in other cities.

Mike introduced me to the young co-owner of Los Ocampo, Julian Ocampo, a recent graduate from the University of St. Thomas. I enjoyed hearing about the portfolio of ethnic food and dining experiences Los Ocampo offers to the metro area, from catering to a full-service restaurant and bar. Now, Los Ocampo is planning to develop further efficiencies in its operations by centralizing certain functions. Julian is actively using his social media skills to build the Los Ocampo brand and widen its consumer base.

Some years ago we organized the ALANA (African Latino Asian and Native American) Green Summit to help the community think about the possibilities of the emerging green economy. So I always keep my antenna up to learn what ALANA entrepreneurs are doing in this area. Anoop Mathur, founder of Terrafore Technologies is on the verge of a breakthrough in the field of thermal energy storage. He uses a patented technology to improve the efficiencies in materials used in the thermal energy storage process. Anoop laments that the U.S. is still not active in this field and he is finding greater interest in Europe and Africa. To bring his concept to scale he needs an investment of at least a million dollars. Once he reaches a large enough scale he envisions dramatic progress.

There is a core identity in Minnesota as a welcoming place with a culture of openness, innovation and creativity. A multi-ethnic coalition recently relaunched with the vision of growing this space in Minnesota. recently presented its first Big Idea: Think and Act Long Term (to Achieve Racial Equity and Social and Economic Inclusion). State Demographer Susan Brower set the stage, documenting Minnesota’s increasing dependence on ALANA workers to meet its growing labor shortage. Tasha Byers of the Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce shared the experience of GreaterMSP in recruiting and retaining high-skilled ALANA workers who are not finding Minnesota culturally attractive. Shaun Williams-Wyche from the Office of Higher Education spelled out what was needed to grow the ALANA workforce to attain the goal of 70% of Minnesota’s workforce with a post-secondary certificate or degree. I shared a new model for economic and political representation at the precinct level to help achieve the Big Idea. September’s Big Idea will be on the theme Putting People First.


Bruce Corrie, PhD, blogs at and is a professor of economics at Concordia University ‑ Saint Paul.