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University of Minnesota Extension

Michael Darger

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Extension specialist, community economics
Director, business retention and expansion



462 Coffey Hall
1420 Eckles Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108-6070


Communities where I work



  • B.A., Economics and Management, Albion College, Albion, MI
  • M.B.A., Marketing and Finance, University of Michigan

Work experience

Michael has managed the Center for Community Vitality's Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) Program since 1999. He provides BR&E consulting and applied research for mostly Minnesota communities in cooperation with Extension educators and specialists. He co-teaches BR&E courses annually (online and in-person) for economic development professionals and stakeholders in the USA and internationally. In Minnesota, he has helped lead award-winning BR&E programs for the communities of Menahga, Hugo and Faribault, Lyon and Swift counties, and the Midway-University neighborhood of St. Paul. He also co-led an award-winning BR&E program for Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

Michael is the lead guest editor for a special BRE issue of Community Development, Journal of the Community Development Society planned for publication in 2017.

Michael was the center's first Community Economics program leader from 2004 - 2010, when he served as supervisor, coach and convener for nine Extension educators.

Before joining Extension, Michael spent 10 years in local economic development positions with both urban nonprofit organizations and county governments. He also has experience in commercial banking, corporate finance and marketing.

Affiliations, honors and community service

  • Affiliations/Board of Director service: National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP), President-elect/president/past president 2012-2015, National Secretary 2010-2012; Business Retention and Expansion International (BREI), former board member; Joint Council of Extension Professionals (JCEP) (2012-2015), board member and Treasurer (2015)
  • Awards: Extension Dean and Director's Award for Distinguished Outstanding Leadership (2008); NACDEP Distinguished National Service Award (2015); Business Retention and Expansion International, George Morse Award for major contributions (2007); Extension Dean and Director's Outstanding Extension Team, Retail Analysis and Development (2005); NACDEP National Award Diversity – Team (2010)
  • Certifications/Certificates of Completion: Economic Development Finance Professional (National Development Council); Blandin Community Leadership Program (Blandin Foundation); Certified Master Consultant (BREI); LEAD21 – National Land Grant Leadership Program (Fanning Institute, University of Georgia); Quality Matters – Improving Your Online Course

Selected publications

  • Darger, M. (2014). Capturing the ripples from community-driven business retention and expansion programs. Journal of Extension, 52(2). Retrieved from http://www.joe.org/joe/2014april/pdf/JOE_v52_2tt6.pdf.
  • Hill, Joshua & Darger, M. (2014). Using Focus Groups for Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) at the Community Level: Detailed Notes about the Columbus, Minnesota BR&E Program. University of Minnesota Department of Applied Economics staff paper. Retrieved from http://ageconsearch.umn.edu//handle/183432.
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