It’ll be located at VTP initially, with the goal of relocating it to downtown after a few months

    The Crookston City Council next week is expected to approve City funding to assist with the establishment of a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Crookston, an initiative pitched last month to the council by U of M Crookston Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause.

    “It’s a signature project for the new chancellor and she is passionate about it,” said City Administrator Shannon Stassen. “There’s really good momentum on this and issues related to it, and the chancellor feels this is a service we need to be offering, because we are under-served right now when it comes to new businesses.”

    The council’s Ways & Means Committee has approved $15,000 in City funds, to come from the council’s economic development fund, in 2017, and the same amount in 2018. The funding package also includes $15,000 over the same two years from the Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority (CHEDA), which has yet to officially sit down and discuss its funding share, but information indications seem to be that the CHEDA Board will find that having an SBDC office in Crookston staffed by a full-time consultant will be a worthy investment. It’s likely that the space for the SBDC at VTP would be part of in-kind support from CHEDA as well.

    The council agenda next week will include the consideration of a letter of support for the project, in addition to a resolution calling for the approval of City funding.

    An SBDC hasn’t had much of a local presence for some time. The regional hub was once located at Concordia College in Moorhead, but then moved to the University of Minnesota Duluth campus, leaving the closest consultant to Crookston in Bemidji. Holz-Clause has consulted with UMD officials, who indicated they are willing and able to free up some funding to open an SBDC office in Crookston.

At VTP, for now at least

    When Holz-Clause first presented her SBDC vision, she said she thought it was important that it be located somewhere in the community off-campus, and she specifically mentioned downtown Crookston as being the ideal spot for an SBDC. But the specific plan that has since taken shape has the SBDC office being located at Valley Technology Park, which isn’t officially on the UMC campus but is located immediately to the north of it. VTP is also home to the CHEDA offices.

    The tentative plan, Stassen said, is for the SBDC to be located at VTP for several months as it gets off the ground, with the long-term goal of relocating it, likely to downtown. With the tight timeline including a goal of hiring the consultant and opening Crookston’s SBDC in early 2018, Stassen said VTP provided a location that’s immediately ready for move-in, while potential downtown locations that surfaced required some renovations and improvements.

    “The chancellor would like to revisit (the long-term SBDC) location after the first nine months or so,” he said.

    The City will have a say in the hiring process and will also be represented on an SBDC advisory board that will track the progress made by Crookston’s SBDC office and its impact when it comes to helping with new business start-ups and supporting them.

    Even though the City and CHEDA would only be providing local funding for 2017 and 2018, Stassen said the idea is that Crookston would have a financially supported SBDC office for many years beyond that. “There are resources available,” he said, noting that the representatives of the Northwest Regional Development Commission in Warren have indicated their desire for the Crookston SBDC to have long-term support. “The chancellor, too, is adamant about sustaining this and longevity,” Stassen added.

    Speaking on behalf of the Downtown Crookston Development Partnership (DCDP) Board, Shirley Iverson said the DCDP is greatly interested in having the SBDC downtown as soon as possible. Rather than waiting nine months, she said the DCDP would prefer targeting a relocation in the summer of 2018. “It could be such an anchor location for downtown,” Iverson said, adding that there could potentially be cubicles in the SBDC space that business start-ups could rent for something like $100 a month. “I want it said loud that we were hoping (the SBDC) would start downtown,” Iverson continued. “We will really be looking forward to when it can move downtown.”