Tashitaa Tufaa was a refugee from Ethiopia when he arrived in Minneapolis in 1992. Today, he is the founder and CEO of Fridley-based Metropolitan Transportation Network, Inc., a multi-million dollar school bus service company that recently opened its second metro-area location on Lyndale Avenue in North Minneapolis.
Named 2012 Entrepreneur of the year by the Metropolitan Economic Development Association, which offers several services to minority-owned businesses, Tufaa is also a longtime member of the University of Minnesota Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center’s Northside Job Creation Team. The team’s goal is to attract 1,000 sustainable-wage jobs to North Minneapolis by 2019, and he credits his experience with the group for helping him decide to be one of those job creators.
“I like that we all get together and talk about issues and try to find solutions that will bring more business back to North Minneapolis,” Tufaa says, recalling how it was Bill English, the team’s community project director, who really convinced him to make the move. “Bill is an expert at creating connections, and he always goes above and beyond to help businesses. I’m glad that we opened this new facility, which will be easy for employees to walk or take a bus to.”
Currently, Metropolitan Transportation Network, Inc. has more than 275 employees and about 70 subcontractors. But the company is growing rapidly and more employees, particularly drivers, are needed to keep up with the demand. “We are doing well and I think that’s because we go above and beyond what other bus companies provide by doing things like not dropping children off at a stop in the winter if there is no adult there to meet them or, if we drop a child at home, we make sure they get inside,” says Tuffa, a father of five. “It’s our job to keep those children safe and we pay our drivers overtime so they can do that.”