Potential off-campus location ID’ed, council to consider $30K contribution

    In the two weeks or so chance U of M Crookston Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause pitched to the Crookston City Council the establishment of a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) office in Crookston, progress has been made, including a potential off-campus office location identified.

    The effort will likely ramp up more when the council’s Ways & Means Committee meets and consider City Administrator Shannon Stassen’s recommendation that the council approve a partnership agreement with UMC by committing $15,000 in 2017 and $15,000 again in 2018 to the local SBDC. The funds, Stassen indicates in a meeting memo for Monday, would come from the council’s Community and Economic Development fund.

    When Holz-Clause presented to the council in late October, she said that while she’d be OK with the SBDC office being located on the U of M Crookston campus - the vast majority of SBDCs are located on college campuses - she preferred an off-campus location, possibly downtown, that would better immerse the SBDC office and staff member in the Crookston community.

    Stassen indicates in his memo that Holz-Clause has talked to Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority (CHEDA) Executive Director Craig Hoiseth about potential partnership opportunities between CHEDA and the SBDC.

History, background

    SBDCs date back more than three decades and are their offices are located in a handful of regions across Minnesota. Years back, this region’s SBDC office was located at Concordia University in Moorhead, and a regional SBDC consultant was based at Valley Technology Park in Crookston. But then the regional hub relocated to the University of Minnesota Duluth campus and the Crookston consultant went away as well, resulting in the closest SBDC consultant to Crookston being in Bemidji.

    SBDC offices work on three-year contracts, and the UMD office is in the second year of a three-year accord. SBDC officials there, Holz-Clause explained last month, have indicated they could make around $45,000 in the contract’s third year to launch an office in Crookston. After the third year, the chancellor said, the budget would be adjusted accordingly for the next three-year contract.

    Taking that $45,000 and adding salary and benefits, potential office rent, travel, office equipment and other related expenses, Holz-Clause figures the annual budget for an SBDC office in Crookston would be around $100,000. The university would contribute around $19,000 per year, she noted last month. Although the chancellor acknowledged it’s an ambitious timeline, she’d like the Crookston SBDC office to open in January 2018.

Role, mission, CHEDA involvement

    SBDC consultants meet with would-be business start-ups and provide them advice and expertise as they determine if their business idea has actual legs and could lead to long-term success. Consultants also meet with banks and other financiers to put business plans and cash-flow models together. SBDC consultants also either directly educate would-be entrepreneurs or connect them with educational business opportunities. In addition, Holz-Clause explained last month, much of what an SBDC office does is create awareness that it exists and is willing and ready to help small businesses get off the ground.

    Considering the university’s major role in the SBDC mission, Holz-Clause said that business students at UMC would obviously have many opportunities to tie learning opportunities to projects that benefit the SBDC and its clients.