Stakeholders strategize to encourage entrepreneurs
A business incubator and other strategies for assisting entrepreneurs generated discussion during technical team presentations at an economic development stakeholders committee meeting in Minot Wednesday.
A function of Minot’s National Disaster Resilience Program, the stakeholders committee has been following up on recommendations of the International Economic Development Council by finding ways to enhance development efforts. Several technical teams have been tackling specific topics.
Former mayor Chuck Barney, director of Minot State University’s Severson Entrepreneurship Academy, spoke for a technical team that concluded the best place for a proposed business incubator is downtown.
“It fosters good foot traffic. It is accessible to all the activities that are going on downtown and just kind of fits in with this whole concept that we’ve been working on,” he said.
The technical team addressed online access, a food innovation incubator, business space for budding entrepreneurs and access to local business resources, including peer-to-peer learning, mentoring and networking.
Among the next phases in the discussion are to seek out grants and other funding sources, develop community partners and identify capital and operational fundraising needed for sustainability and growth, he said.
“Sustainability, I think, is key in that in that sentence, I don’t think any of us want to go through all this effort and then have what we create not be sustainable,” Barney said. “We’re doing this because the incubator is solving a problem in the community and it needs to be sustainable, which means it’s got to have some source of funding behind it somehow.”
Lyndsay Ulrickson, executive director at Souris Basin Planning Council, representing the financial toolbox technical team, discussed some of the issues facing entrepreneurs.
“We really wanted to look at it not only from a financial standpoint, but from just a resource standpoint. Not just how do we get more financial incentives to businesses, but really, how do we share all those support resources, and how do we spread the word and also expand on what we already have? One of the questions we kind of asked is, ‘What if entrepreneurs can use the power of the community to grow and to give back?’ And so we really thought a community support system is what it’s going to take to help entrepreneurs thrive in Minot, and it really goes back to the incubator space that would serve as a community-empowered, entrepreneurial resource,” she said.
One hurdle is that entrepreneurs don’t know where to go for help and may not ask, she said.
“So I think we all have to keep putting ourselves out there as organizations to say, ‘Hey, we’re here. We’re here to help,'” Ulrickson said. “We have those resources, I think they are underutilized.”
The technical team developed four strategic priorities:
® Establish an awareness and communications campaign around resource organizations so entrepreneurs know where to turn for help.
® Create a flow chart for entrepreneurs to easily access information about the types of financial resources and supports they are going to need throughout the process of developing their businesses.
® Develop new and advanced incentive programs and services, which could include a Business Improvement District, tax increment financing, redevelopment programs and revolving loan funds.
® Identify funding sources and educational opportunities around Renaissance Zones and Opportunity Zones.
Other technical teams also presented reports Wednesday.
Roger Reich, president of the Downtown Business & Professional Association, speaking for a downtown technical team, said a strategic plan is being written for downtown, to be completed in July. Other tasks include reviewing the DBPA’s bylaws, researching comparable cities and their downtowns and establishing data on Minot’s downtown, such as number and types of businesses, residential demographics and unused properties.
“We’re going to do a walking study to determine the condition of the buildings downtown and provide observations that can be helpful to developing … those properties in the in the future,” Reich said.
The team also expects to hold community forums for public input.
“We’re going to get a lot of answers over the next few months, and I hope that does help the downtown revitalize and also helps Minot go that next step,” Reich said.
Stakeholders heard about the input that has gone into developing a community brand. The question for the technical team was whether now or later is the time to rebrand.
“There’s never a perfect time to rebrand but there’s a perfect time to start moving forward. And I think, clearly, right now is that time,” team member Elly DesLauriers said.
The technical team reports from Wednesday and Jan. 16 are available on the city website at minotnd.org. The next meeting of the stakeholders committee is Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 201 of Minot Municipal Auditorium. Meetings are open to the public.