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University of Minnesota Extension

Extension is expanding its online education and resources to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions.

Business retention and expansion course

See this page in: English

"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.

Online course

The BRE online course is an eight-week class. Sessions are scheduled in 2020 for spring (March 25 – May 27), summer (June 24 – August 26) and fall (September 23 – November 25).


In-person course

The BRE in-person course is a traditional class over two days. A session is scheduled in 2020 for fall (October 22-23).


Costs and discounts

  • Individual (per person): $600
  • Community members/teams*:
    • 2 person team: $900
    • 3–5 person team: $1,200
  • 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 Extension. For individuals taking the course at full price, you will receive the following upon completion:

  • Certification from Business Retention and Expansion International (BREI). This is an international association that promotes and educates about BRE.
  • A one-year membership in BREI ($100 value).

Note: Team members finishing the course using the team price are eligible to receive the BREI certification and one-year membership for $75.

Meet the course instructors

Michael Darger and John Bennett are the course instructors.


Online course (summer) Online course (fall) In-person course (fall)


"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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