Extension specialist, community economics
Director, business retention and expansion
462 Coffey Hall
1420 Eckles Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108-6070
Communities where I work
- B.A., Economics and Management, Albion College, Albion, MI
- M.B.A., Marketing and Finance, University of Michigan
Michael has managed the Extension Center for Community Vitality's business retention and expansion (BRE) programs since 1999. Through the Connecting Businesses and Community program (i.e. Extension’s BRE model), he provides consulting and applied research for Minnesota communities. He cooperates with Extension educators and U of M specialists on BRE initiatives and other community economics programs and research. He co-teaches BRE courses (online and in-person) for economic development professionals and stakeholders in the USA and internationally. In Minnesota, he has helped lead award-winning BRE programs for various communities.
Michael created a special BRE issue of Community Development, Journal of the Community Development Society 48:2, May, 2017. It was published (2019) as a hard-cover book, Business Retention and Expansion (BRE): A Practical Approach to Economic Development (ISBN: 978-0-367-17361-6) in the Community Development - Current Issues series. Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group), Oxfordshire, England.
Michael was the center's first community economics program leader from 2004–2010, when he served as supervisor, coach and convener for nine Extension educators.
Before joining Extension, Michael spent 10 years in local economic development positions with both urban nonprofit organizations and county governments. He also has experience in commercial banking, corporate finance and marketing.
Affiliations, honors and community service
- Affiliations/Board of Director service: National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP), President-elect/president/past president (2012-2015), National Secretary (2010-2012); Business Retention and Expansion International (BREI), former board member; Joint Council of Extension Professionals (JCEP) (2012-2015), board member and Treasurer (2015)
- Awards: Extension Dean and Director's Award for Distinguished Outstanding Leadership (2008); NACDEP Distinguished National Service Award (2015); Business Retention and Expansion International, George Morse Award for major contributions (2007); Extension Dean and Director's Outstanding Extension Team, Retail Analysis and Development (2005); NACDEP National Award Diversity – Team (2010)
- Certifications/Certificates of Completion: Economic Development Finance Professional (National Development Council); Blandin Community Leadership Program (Blandin Foundation); Certified Master Consultant (BREI); LEAD21 – National Land Grant Leadership Program (Fanning Institute, University of Georgia); Quality Matters – Improving Your Online Course
- Darger, M., Macht, C. (2019). Enticing Businesses to Stay - Barnesville and Cottage Grove craft the local Business Retention and Expansion playbook. March 2019 issue of Minnesota Economic Trends.
- Darger, M., Tuck, B., Bennett, J. (2017): Lessons learned from a generation of community-driven business retention and expansion programming, Community Development — Journal of the Community Development Society, 48(2).
- Darger, M., Barefield, A., Hales, B. (2017). Business retention and expansion (BRE) today – research, application, and evaluation: Introduction to the special issue, Community Development — Journal of the Community Development Society, 48(2).
- Darger, M. (2014). Capturing the ripples from community-driven business retention and expansion programs. Journal of Extension, 52(2).