Open for business in Coon Rapids

The city of Coon Rapids has forged a partnership with the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD) to bring its Open to Business program to Coon Rapids.

The Coon Rapids Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), which comprises the seven members of the Coon Rapids City Council, has approved a one-year contract with MCCD.

The Open to Business program, which provides technical and financial assistance to small business owners, will start in April.

As part of the launch of Open to Business in the city, staff presented the HRA with a marketing program, something the council had requested when it heard a presentation on the program from Rob Smolund, MCCD’s enterprise facilitator, at a work session in early February.

According to Matt Brown, community development specialist, who spearheaded the staff effort on this program, an Open to Business page will be created on the city’s website immediately.

In addition, direct contact will be made with local bankers and property managers to market the program to their clients and staff will meet with both the MetroNorth and Anoka Area chambers of commerce to ask them publicize the program to its members, Brown wrote in a memo to the HRA.

“Both organizations have agreed to help market the program,” he wrote.

Brown has also been in contact with CTN, the city’s cable television studio, to develop a video about Open for Business.

As well, Brown plans to have an article included in the city newsletter, which is mailed to all addresses in Coon Rapids, and its Business Update newsletter, which goes to all businesses in the city.

And he plans to contact all people who have conditional use permits for home occupations in the city and send information to city email list subscribers as well as an email to the Minnesota Commercial Association of Realtors.

“The HRA was very complimentary of the marketing program staff presented,” Brown said.

According to Brown, the Open to Business program will complement existing economic development efforts and address a market segment that is somewhat under-served by existing programs.

Under the program, prospective and existing entrepreneurs receive free one-on-one counseling with a business adviser from MCCD, Brown said.

“This is an opportunity to help business owners with planning and organizing their business ideas, financial management, marketing, regulatory compliance and leasing or purchasing property, he wrote in a memo to the HRA.

The business adviser from MCCD, who will be Smolund, will have office hours at the Coon Rapids City Center once a month for walk-in appointments, Brown said.

The office hours will take place the third Tuesday of the month from 2 to 4:30 p.m., starting in April, he said.

But interested business owners will be able to set up appointments at other times by contacting MCCD, Brown said.

The MCCD program goes beyond mere technical assistance.

Business owners in the city taking part in the Open to Business program will also be able to take advantage of MCCD’s small business loan program, which provides capital to start or grow a business, according to Brown.

“MCCD’s loan fund is generally geared toward businesses that have a legitimate business plan, but have difficulty securing traditional bank financing,” Brown wrote.

The loan provides up to $25,000 for start-up businesses, which can be used for working capital, inventory, building, equipment and operations, Brown said.

In addition, partnerships with area banks enable MCCD to help businesses obtain bank loans and revolving lines of credit, he said.

The contract with MCCD will cost the city $15,000 a year, which will come from the HRA budget, according to Brown.

Under the contract, MCCD will provide quarterly reports to the city on use of the program and at the end of the year, the success of the program will be evaluated, Brown said.

Brown is optimistic that small business owners will make use of the Open to Business program to justify the city extending the contract with MCCD, he said.

In his presentation to the council in February, Smolund said the goal of the MCCD program is to become a trusted adviser to the business and help it get financing to expand.

“We are with them the whole way, really involved with the client,” he said.

“We can provide the third-party objectivity that aspiring entrepreneurs need.”

According to Smolund, MCCD worked with more than 250 business owners in Hennepin County in 2012, generating $1 million in financing to leverage more than $3 million in capital and retain or create 97 jobs.

MCCD is a 501c3 nonprofit agency and the $15,000 paid by the city goes to operational support, Smolund said.

This will be the first MCCD open to business program in Anoka County, Brown said.

Hennepin County communities have been part of the Open to Business program since 2010 and it expanded to Dakota County Jan. 1 to involve several cities, including Burnsville and Eagan, he said.

According to its website, MCCD is an association of nonprofit community development organizations committed to expanding the wealth and resources of neighborhoods through housing and economic development initiatives.

For 30 years, MCCD members have worked together to increase opportunities for the development of quality, community-based projects through collaborative action on public policy issues, loan fund development, public education efforts and long-term strategic planning, the website states.

Open to Business is one of three core activities of MCCD, the others being convening and public policy.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]