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University of Minnesota Extension

Coaching and training for local business retention initiatives

Is your community ready to launch a Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) initiative in Minnesota? Extension offers training, facilitation and expert advice to community leaders to move communities through parts of the process where they need a little help.

Extension's community economics educators bring coaching and support directly to your community. We'll design a plan that moves your community forward. Mix and match the sessions described below. Your Extension educator will carefully plan each session with you to maximize your community's success in retaining and expanding local business.

Create a team and a plan

Planning your BRE initiative

We'll facilitate a planning session that helps your leadership team identify goals, create a work plan with milestone meeting dates, and assign leadership tasks.

Creating a productive BRE leadership team

BRE leadership teams of 3 to 5 people can share the work of managing initiatives. To get your leadership team off to a good start, Extension educators will lay out the BRE leadership roles critical to success. Then, we'll facilitate a meeting to help your team decide who's going to do what.

Reach out to businesses successfully

Putting together a good survey

We'll walk you through considerations for good survey design. We'll discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different types of questions, proper sequencing and clarity of questions, visual design, and the pros and cons of different delivery methods (e.g., in-person interviews, online and mailed surveys). We'll delve into Extension's survey resources for your future use, including survey templates and a question bank. Finally, participants will learn how to test a survey instrument before release.

Mobilizing a task force

A task force typically includes 15 to 25 individuals with a broad swath of community connections — business, government, economic development organizations, education, and more. Your Extension educator will facilitate a task force meeting where the group answers critical questions before launching your community initiative.

Preparing to visit businesses

This session is designed for communities that use volunteers to visit businesses and collect data. Participants will discuss "good, bad and ugly" visitation techniques and review the survey instrument and goals for your community's BRE program. Typically, this meeting is held at the launch of the visitation program.

Use the information you collect from businesses

Immediate survey follow-up (a.k.a. warning flags analysis)

"Triage" is the first step in looking at information from businesses. Extension educators can either facilitate the warning flag review of surveys or train your BRE team on how to conduct warning flag reviews. Then, they'll prioritize issues for immediate, medium-term and longer-term response.

Basic data analysis and report writing

At this training, we'll discuss how to move your group from data analysis to local action. We'll help you sort through survey data and secondary data sources, decide what is most relevant, and then construct a narrative about the local economy. This narrative can be used for planning, setting policy, and educating the community. Participants will receive report templates, information about where to find secondary data, and a methodology for understanding and communicating the local community's economic story.

Setting priorities and taking action

After your survey data have been collected, tabulated and put into a report, it's time to select priority projects and implement them. Educators will facilitate a planning retreat that takes your community through this process. The session cycles through rounds of data presentation, individual reflection, discussion, and decision-making to keep participants engaged. Extension is a neutral broker as the community decides what to do, but educators can offer strong guidance to help your community move forward.

Engage your community

Community commencement meeting

The community commencement meeting is a chance for your initiative team to announce and celebrate the results of your initiative at a public meeting. Extension educators will help you plan a gathering that is vibrant and engaging. Some communities use this meeting as an opportunity to recruit more volunteers for priority projects.

Project implementation

At this training, we'll share insights about business retention from Extension's ongoing research. The training will motivate community members to stay involved, growing their skills for successful action over time. This meeting can either be a training session or facilitation, but the emphasis will always tilt toward helping the community move out of research and into action.

Evaluate success with ripple effect mapping

This session will help your community capture the "ripple effects" of your BRE efforts. Extension will lead focus groups where participants reflect on the outcomes of their BRE effort, including those who were directly involved, as well as indirect beneficiaries. Using mind-mapping software and nominal group technique, participants describe outcomes that are recorded. Completing a ripple effect "map" will give your community a visual image that reveals the outcomes of your hard work. Extension educators can also follow up with another session 6 or 12 months later to document additional progress. Learn more about ripple effect mapping.

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