Retaining businesses in your community
About business retention
"Business retention is at the core of everything we do in economic development. It's the first thing on my list — to take care of our existing family of businesses."
— Minnesota community leader for economic development
Retaining and expanding local businesses is central to the mission of economic development in Minnesota. It is important to build positive relationships with businesses, connect with them regularly, and follow up when problems arise that may affect critical business activities.
If you are unsure how or where to start, this may seem like a daunting task. Know that you are not alone. With over 20 years of experience working with communities, Extension offers a host of resources that can help economic development leaders create a community climate in which businesses thrive.
Ways Extension can help
Extension offers a longstanding program, training, research and in-depth community consultation to help your community create a plan to help local businesses.
Retaining local businesses
Do you have a business retention plan? Our connecting businesses and community program helps you understand — and respond to — local business needs. Learn more about our program.
Coaching and guidance
Are you starting a program and need help working through the steps? We can help you research local business needs, prioritize projects and take action. Learn about our research, consultation and coaching services.
Community resources and tools
Extension provides tools that help communities create plans and support their local businesses. Use our resources to help your community move forward.
Support rural business transfers
Are you ready for business owners in your community to retire? The health of small businesses is critical to local economies and to the civic and philanthropic life of rural communities. Find ways to support business succession.
Access survey questions
Are you ready to survey your local businesses? Use our survey question bank to gather information important to businesses and find out what they need.
Learn from other communities
How successful are communities at retaining businesses? Review our case studies to see how asking businesses what they need can lead to important projects – housing development, town beautification, leadership succession planning and more.
Review community benchmarks
What type of data is found from business retention and expansion programs? Extension has over 25 years of benchmark data from doing community interviews that provide insight into what Minnesota businesses care about.
Explore recent research
What studies have been done on retaining businesses? Scholars and economic development experts notice innovative practices, case studies and emerging issues. Read reports about our research and the community programs we've helped build.
Your community can learn about retaining businesses in a variety of ways from Extension. Learn more through videos, on-demand webinars, podcasts and articles.
Have you met with your local businesses? Watch our below videos for role-playing examples, tips for visiting organizations and ways to implement business retention and expansion in your community.
Watch these videos for descriptions of ways to implement a business retention and expansion program in your community.
Watch the 18-minute version for the most detailed insights. The shorter versions are good for sharing with colleagues and officials who you need to support your efforts.
Full video (19:06)
Short preview (2:25)
An overview (5:48)
DVD for sale
The full business retention and expansion DVD includes the above video segments, our three-step process and results in local communities.
If you like to buy a DVD, mail a $25 check made out to the University of Minnesota with a short note to:
University of Minnesota Extension
462 Coffey Hall
1420 Eckles Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55108-6068
The DVD will be shipped postage paid for U.S. and Canada locations. Extra shipping may apply for other destinations.
Watch recent on-demand webinars about retaining local businesses.
- How does your community respond when local businesses need help getting started or staying open? Join our webinar and learn about Community Supported Enterprises that are motivated by community social purposes.
- Minnesota's consumer and retail economy is changing. A 2019 Extension study found communities are finding ways to grow consumer sales. Join our webinar and learn more.
- Can data collected from business visits help you understand how perceptions of a community affect where a business decides to locate? Watch our webinar and learn more.
- Have you ever sent a survey and received too few responses or not the right data? Learn how to avoid making common mistakes with community surveys.
- What is the value of a downtown or business district with vibrant businesses? Learn how you can asses your community's retail situation and take action.
Related articles and podcasts
Listen to podcasts and read articles related to business retention topics.
What do entrepreneurs need to succeed? Read how you can help your community focus on entrepreneurs. Also, learn about a Minnesota conference that helped connect and inspire entrepreneurial communities.
Episode 08: Manufacturing in Minnesota [podcast]
Workforce issues have tripled in importance, based on results from Enterprise Minnesota's 2017 State of Manufacturing survey. Listen as we talk about workforce challenges in manufacturing.
Selling a small business is not the same as selling a house. Listen as we discuss how business owners and buyers can prepare for this transition and how communities can help.
How do you plan for a successful business transition? Sharing resources and building supportive relationships can help. In this episode, hear how Spring Valley, Minnesota created a program that helps business owners.
Consult with us
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Extension educators work in communities with partners throughout Minnesota. Contact us for consultation, guidance and conversation about your community.