Coon Rapids launches business retention, expansion study

The city of Coon Rapids has launched a business retention and expansion study.

City staff and a leadership team, comprising representatives from businesses in Coon Rapids, are working with the University of Minnesota Extension Service on the study.

According to Matt Brown, Coon Rapids community development specialist and lead staff person on the project, the university’s program has been used throughout Minnesota.

“It a time tested process of gathering and analyzing data, then developing strategies to address community concerns related to economic development.

The process will involve visits to existing businesses in Coon Rapids, mainly manufacturing companies in the city, to learn about their concerns and needs, and how the city might help.

The leadership team will oversee the study.

It comprises Jeff Johnson of Barna, Guzy and Steffen, Larry Crane of Northeast Bank, Bruce Saylor of Connexus Energy, Brandi Lunnebourg of Mercy Hospital, Maureen Steinwall of Steinwall Inc., Tom Murray of ECM Publishers and Matt Salo from Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

Steinwall is chairing the leadership team.

At its meetings to date – another was planned this week – the leadership team has selected its roles and responsibilities, such as coordinating visits, events and responses to issues, according to Brown.

But a task force of anywhere from 20 to 40 community leaders will do the leg work of visiting business, Brown said.

“The goal is to get 40 to 50 visits completed this summer and fall,” he said.

The overall process is expected to take a year with the Coon Rapids City Council receiving a final report containing implementation ideas on what the city might be able do to assist businesses, based on what is heard during the visits to companies, Brown said.

The impetus for the business retention and expansion study came from Connexus Energy, which has been a catalyst for other communities in its service area to work with the University of Minnesota Extension Service on this study, according to Brown.

These cities have included Blaine, Forest Lake and Monticello, Brown said.

In fact, Connexus Energy is picking up $5,000 of the $15,000 project cost.

And Brown hopes that by tapping other private sector financial support for the project, the city’s cost will be in the $2,000 range, he said.

According to the University of Minnesota Extension Service website, the business retention and expansion program helps communities identify barriers that local businesses face as they try to survive and grow.

The visits to businesses and analysis of the results “provides valuable information and ideas to invigorate the local economy through targeted action,” the extension service website states.

The program’s three major steps – research, prioritize and implement – turn ideas into action, according to the extension service.

The extension service has been offering the business retention and expansion program since 1990.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]