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University of Minnesota Extension

Community benchmarks for retaining businesses

Learnings from local communities

Since 1990, Extension has helped more than 70 communities interview local businesses to learn about their needs and concerns. Communities use the information from these surveys to respond to business concerns in order to increase the likelihood that local businesses will stay and expand in the community.

In 2015 (updated 2019), Extension organized data from 25 years of these interviews, ultimately creating a database of responses from almost 2,300 interviews that provide insights into what Minnesota businesses care about. Data is aggregated at the community level to protect firm confidentiality and allow communities to compare their responses to one another.

Please refer to the informational videos and user guides below for information about how to organize and interpret the data.

Database goals

The goals of creating this database are two-fold:

  • One, to provide a benchmark for communities engaged in the program to measure themselves.
  • Two, to inform public discussion of business issues in Minnesota.

Economic developers, community groups, community leaders, and those who research business retention and expansion may use this information as a tool as they weigh their options for investing in economic development strategies or local quality of life.


This benchmarking tool gives those interested in economic development unprecedented access to the experiences of thousands of Minnesota businesses. This data and the knowledge gained from them can inform economic development goals, contribute data to relevant research questions, and describe the relationship between businesses and local communities. While private consultants and government agencies have collected similar data, our team is unaware of publicly available benchmarked data.

How to view the data

All data is available in downloadable files on this page. If you're familiar with Excel, consider reviewing the summary user guide for specific information about how to interpret the files. If you're not familiar with Excel, we suggest you download the full user guide. It will walk you through how to make the most of the database.

This information will be updated over time to increase its depth and richness. It is our hope that other economic development entities will also create and share benchmark data sets for the betterment of all business retention and expansion professionals and stakeholders.


Informational videos

Introduction to benchmarks

Getting started

Using filters

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