Extension Logo
Extension Logo
University of Minnesota Extension

Business retention and expansion course

"I've taken many courses for economic development and I will say this is by far the most robust. It's been around for 20 years. And with that there's a lot of information and supplemental materials … I would challenge you to at least take a look at it … If you don't have time to read it all, then peruse, skim it, dig into it …"
— Michael Paris, senior business development manager, Norfolk, Virginia (online course participant, fall 2019)

A healthy, vibrant local economy depends largely on the strength of existing businesses. Community leaders can help local businesses grow and thrive through business retention and expansion (BRE) programs.

University of Minnesota Extension has offered business retention and expansion courses since 1996. You can choose to take an eight-week online course or attend a two-day, in-person workshop. Both options provide an opportunity for you to learn how to conduct high-quality programs in your community or region.

In-person course

The BRE in-person course is a traditional class over two days.


Online course

The BRE online course is an eight-week class. Upcoming courses are listed on this page when they are scheduled.


Costs and discounts

  • Individual (per person): $575
  • Community members/teams*:
    • 2-person team: $950
    • 3–5 person team: $1,300
  • Full-time student: $110 — email your transcript to Michael Darger prior to registering

*Community-led BRE is all about teamwork, so we encourage teams to attend training together. We offer team discounts for groups from a town or city, county, school district, or other groups of contiguous communities. It is available for either the online or in-person course.


Everyone who completes the course:

  • Receives a certificate of accomplishment from University of Minnesota Extension.
  • Meets a course requirement to receive a Business Retention and Expansion International (BREI) certification and one-year membership for $75. BREI is an international association that promotes and educates about BRE.

Keep in touch

If you're not quite ready to take a course yet, we can let you know when courses will be available. 

Sign up for in-person course updates.

For current offerings, see "Upcoming events" on this page.


"Business Retention and Expansion is such a vibrant program to launch for your community. And the UMN Extension course and Michael Darger are responsible for teaching us the process. Our economic development organization … is currently immersed in interviewing 100 businesses, gathering information from those interviews and having the responses analyzed to come up with the priority projects our businesses want and need to improve our economy … The UMN course lays out, in excellent detail, how to carry out this meaningful program."

— Dr. Nancy Shepherd (Farmington, NM)

Independent learning option

Do you enjoy handling projects and tasks on your own? Review our introduction to BRE page to explore the process and learn as you go.

Page survey

© 2024 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.