Helping local businesses succeed
“Menahga is a more positive place to live, work and play as a result of the partnership with Extension’s BRE program. Over 52 businesses were surveyed in our city of 1,300. Community stakeholders took the information from surveys and created working teams that brought more affordable housing, entertainment, an awareness of our business community, and opportunities for our youth. Menahga now has a concerted effort to help businesses grow and prosper.”— Liz Olson, Menahga business retention and expansion leadership team
Extension's connecting businesses and community program helps communities understand — and respond to — local business needs. This knowledge better informs your community decisions and helps businesses stay, grow and become more committed to your town.
Benefits to your community
Short-term, your community will:
Show local businesses you want them to succeed
Help local businesses solve immediate concerns
Long-term, your community will:
Create and carry out an economic development plan
Support businesses so they can better compete in the global economy
Process for working with your community
Extension’s program takes a year or two to complete and follows a three-step process. View the below video for more details.
We can provide coaching and training to help your community through the connecting businesses and community initiative.
Learn more about who — and what — is involved in each part of the program below.
- Extension educators and specialists, who help you design your community-driven program. They provide:
- Interview guides
- Data analysis
- A meeting to review findings with University of Minnesota faculty and other experts
- An in-depth report of findings and possible projects
- A community retreat to prepare you ready to move forward
- A leadership team in your community that engages the community, coordinates the task force and organizes the initiative.
- A local task force that engages local leaders — including representatives of economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, business, government and educational institutions.
- Business visitation teams that include leaders from the task force and the community.
Step 1 — Research
- Inform community about BRE
- Organize leadership team
- Organize task force
- Practice visiting businesses
- Finalize interview guide
- Train visitors
- Visit businesses
- Tabulate interview data
Step 2 — Prioritize
- Review warning flags
- Respond to individual concerns
- Analyze interview data
- Write research report
- Plan retreat to set priorities on systemic issues
- Design priority projects
- Write summary report
- Commence to implementation
Step 3 — Implement
- Work on project teams (continuous)
- Sustain leadership team
- Update on projects — 1st quarter task force
- Update on projects — 2nd quarter task force
- Update on projects and plan to sustain BRE — 3rd quarter task force
- Evaluate results
- Distribute results
- Update on projects — 4th quarter task force
- Sustain or conclude BRE
Available programs and cost
Our connecting businesses and community program maximizes Extension support, community organization, and applied research to support the business community. We offer three packages to communities. See details on what each package includes and costs below:
Complete research package
- A survey instrument
- Data tabulation/analysis
- Campus research review meeting that gathers University faculty and other experts to suggest projects that meet business concerns
- Two reports:
- Seven-chapter research report with narrative and graphs
- Summary report
- Planning retreat to “Set Priorities and Take Action”
Note: Extension consulting is not included in this package.
- Complete research package features
- In-person consulting throughout the three major steps of business retention and expansion
- Quarterly meetings in the first year of implementation
- Standard package features
- Customized assistance (i.e. custom survey instrument or advanced analysis)
Costs and financing
Extension's connecting businesses and community program costs $7,000 - $15,000, depending on location and complexity of the program. Our fees help alleviate the costs to Extension for providing technical assistance and research services. We absorb part of this cost to make the program affordable for Minnesota communities.
Urban/suburban programs typically are more complex, requiring more team-building, complex sampling to obtain representative sample sizes, and other specialized efforts. For this reason, prices are as follows:
Participating communities have received help from a variety of sources, including electric utilities, foundations and industry organizations. We can help your community explore options to help finance the program.
Communities must complete an application for acceptance into the program.
Consult with us
Community economics • Leadership and civic engagement • Tourism
Extension educators work in communities with partners throughout Minnesota. Contact us for consultation, guidance and conversation about your community.