People often ask former professional basketball player Devean George why he’s opening a modular manufacturing facility in North Minneapolis, and he tells them how he’s driven to give back to the community that’s uplifted him for so many years.

“It’s because this community has in the past and still supports me and has made me who I am,” George said during a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday. “This community has protected me, taught me, nurtured me, babysat me, given me every opportunity here, and they still support me and put me on a pedestal. And I’m humbled by that, so now it’s my duty to bring these resources and opportunities to our community.”

George recently founded George Modular Solutions to establish a plant for the production of stackable residential and commercial modules at 1400 Washington Ave. N, which the company acquired for almost $12 million in March. Another $5 million will go towards retrofitting the 83,000-square-foot former printing press building just outside of the North Loop. Even more will be spent on machinery and equipment.

The $30 million project secured a $2 million loan from the City and a $3 million grant from the State.

Devean George (center) was joined by Gov. Tim Walz, Mayor Jacob Frey, Ward 5 Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison, Ward 4 Councilmember LaTrisha Vetaw, and others at the June 18 groundbreaking ceremony for George Modular Solutions. Photo by Brianna Kelly

George Modular Solutions expects to hire almost 170 people to start, then nearly double its headcount in the first couple of years. The company says it will bring “high-quality, living wage” jobs starting at $30 an hour and boost affordable housing supply in an area that’s in desperate need of both.

Other longtime North Minneapolis residents spoke during the event, including Attorney General Keith Ellison and Ward 5 Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison, who live across I-94 from the facility.

Keith Ellison said the George Modular Solutions plant will allow Black residents of North Minneapolis, who face real hurdles in obtaining home ownership, “to get into the American game of building generational wealth.” 

“The people who work here will have quality wages and benefits that will improve what the family eats, how the family lives, what the family can save, what they can invest in,” he said. “It will transform lives.”

Gov. Tim Walz, Mayor Jacob Frey, and Ward 4 Councilmember LaTrisha Vetaw were also present for the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, the day before Juneteenth – a fact that was recognized at the beginning of the program.

The exterior of George Modular Solutions’ first manufacturing facility at 1400 N. Washington Ave. Photo by Brianna Kelly

George grew up in North Minneapolis and graduated from Augsburg University. He played 11 seasons in the NBA from 1999-2010 and won three consecutive championships with the Los Angeles Lakers at the beginning of his career.

After he retired, George turned to real estate development and eventually started building affordable housing in North Minneapolis through his other company, George Group North, and his nonprofit, Building Blocks. That includes the Commons at Penn Avenue, a mixed-use, transit-oriented development in the heart of the Willard-Hay neighborhood.

George Modular Solutions already has plans to build modular units for the Upper Harbor Terminal redevelopment in North Minneapolis and the Village Creek apartment development in Brooklyn Park.

The new facility should be ready to open in November and start producing modular units in January.