The city of Coon Rapids has partnered with the University of Minnesota and business leaders on a business retention and expansion program.
The Coon Rapids City Council has approved a contract with the University of Minnesota Extension to use what Community Development Director Marc Nevinski described as its “time-tested” program.
According to Nevinski, the University of Minnesota’s program is nationally recognized and formal, guiding the city through the process of meeting with key businesses, gathering and analyzing data and developing specific strategies to enhance a community’s business climate.
“The focus of the program is to ensure existing businesses remain strong and expand within the community,” Nevinski said.
What attracted the city to the University of Minnesota program is the “community engagement” component, he said.
The city manages the logistics of the program, but business and non-profit leaders implement key pieces of the program, Nevinski told the council.
That has involved creating a leadership team and task force of local business and community leaders who have been trained to visit local manufacturing businesses and major employers to conduct the survey, he said.
The leadership team of the task force is chaired by Maureen Steinwall, president of Steinwall, Inc.
The task force refined the survey to meet the needs of Coon Rapids, identified key businesses for interviews, recruited members from the community to do the business visits and has ensured follow-up on any issues that come up during the visits, Nevinski said.
The business visits, some 50 of them are planned, have been taking place this fall and are expected to be completed by the middle of November, according to Nevinski.
The focus is on manufacturing companies as well as other large-employer businesses in Coon Rapids, Nevinski said.
“I have been very pleased with the commitment of business and community leaders involved in the project,” he said.
Under the contract, the survey data is compiled and analyzed by researchers at the University of Minnesota, according to Nevinski.
“Community strategies are then developed by experts and community leaders to strengthen the local business environment in order to retain, grow and attract new businesses to the community,” Nevinski told the council.
“The study will identify issues, strengths and weaknesses and produce statistically viable data to provide recommendations.”
The plan is to have the study recommendations brought to the council for consideration in the spring of 2013, he said.
The cost of the University of Minnesota contract is $15,000 with the city, using its HRA levy, contributing up to $3,000 and community sponsorships covering the rest.
To date the city has received $9,250 in donations from local businesses – $5,000 from Connexus Energy, $2,000 from Xcel Energy, $2,000 from Central Bank, $1,000 from Klein Bank and $250 from Kraus-Anderson Construction.
“Additional sponsorships are presently being sought,” Nevinski said.
Earlier this month, the city hosted its first industry breakfast with Coon Rapids manufacturers at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.
According to Nevinski, the purpose of the event was to provide a forum to further connect city, Anoka-Ramsey and private employers in with one another.
Introductions were given by Mayor Tim Howe and Anoka-Ramsey President Dr. Jessica Stumpf.
Presentations were made by Kyle Upholf, economist at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), on the Anoka County economy and Steinwall, who gave a perspective of business challenges and successes.
“We had a big turnout and it was a great meeting,” said Howe.
According to Nevinski, it is hoped to make this a semi-annual event and staff will be meeting with Anoka-Ramsey to talk about future programs.
The community colleges provides customized training programs for business and industry.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]