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University of Minnesota Extension

Business retention and expansion course

“I thoroughly enjoyed Michael and John’s instruction in the BR&E online course. I appreciate the interactive coursework that included real data and examples I can relate with. The material is easy to understand and organized very well. With the resources provided in the course and the training I received, I am ready to start a BR&E program in my community. I would highly recommend this course to other economic development professionals.”

— Sreedhar Upendram, Knoxville, Tennessee (2018 online course participant)

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.

Online course

The BRE online course is an eight-week class. Two sessions are scheduled in 2019 for winter (January 30 - April 3) and fall (September 25 - November 27).


In-person course

The BRE in-person course is a traditional class over two days. Two sessions are scheduled in 2019 for summer (June 5-6) and fall (October 22-23)


Costs and discounts

Individual/team Early-bird Regular
Individual (per person) $500 $600
2 community members* $750 $900
3–5 community members* $1,000 $1,200

*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.


Course certification is available from Business Retention and Expansion International (BREI). This is an international association that promotes and educates about BRE. For a certification and membership fee, it will provide certification to people who successfully complete a University of Minnesota BRE course.

Meet the course instructors

Michael Darger and John Bennett are the course instructors.


Online course In-person course


The availability of an online class allowed our community BRE stakeholders to take this class together without leaving our community. The communication from the instructors was informative and prompt. The lessons were informative, and we all gained useful information for our next community BRE survey to have great results.

— Steve Roe (Grants Pass, Oregon)

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