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Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) – Minnesota Examples of An Essential Economic Development Activity


March 2023 — This webinar describes work from the University of Minnesota-Extension to support business retention and expansion efforts in rural areas. With over 20 years of experience working with rural communities, MN-Extension has developed several resources that support economic development leaders to create a supportive ecosystem for rural business retention and expansion. Three guest presenters, Michael Darger, Marty Walsh, and Amy Schaefer, discuss the importance of business retention and expansion in rural communities.

Webinar Recording

Presenter Slides


Our Presenters

Michael Darger, Extension Specialist, Community Economics Director, University of Minnesota-Extension

Michael is is a community economics specialist who manages UMN Extension’s Business Retention and Expansion program. His current education and research interest is business succession and transition (BST). He is researching business owners’ understanding, attitudes and preparation for succession and transition. A related interest is the conversion of businesses to employee-owned businesses such as ESOPs, cooperatives, or employee ownership trusts. He also teaches Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) courses to economic development audiences and provides BRE consulting and applied research for Minnesota communities. He has served on the boards of economic and community development organizations and edited a book in 2019 Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) A Practical Approach to Economic Development (Rutledge). He serves on the board of the Northeast Investment Co-op in Minneapolis.

Marty Walsh, Economic Development & Key Accounts Manager, People’s Energy Cooperative

Marty has been in his position with People’s Energy since January of 2020, working to partner with the Cooperative’s largest members and communities. This has included working with the University of Minnesota Extension BR&E Program, promoting energy efficiency programs, and coordinating the cooperative’s growing Electric Vehicle program. He serves on the Board of Directors for Cooperative Development Services, Inc. and the Minnesota Driftless Hiking Trail. Prior to People’s Energy, Marty was a Community and Business Development Specialist at Community and Economic Development Associates, Inc., serving as the Director of five local economic development authorities around Southeast Minnesota among other duties. He has also been a financial advisor with Edward Jones and the Executive Director of the Main Street Mason City economic development/historic preservation organization in Mason City, Iowa.

Amy Schaefer, Community and Business Development Specialist, Community Economic Development Associates (CEDA)

Amy Schaefer is a Community and Business Development Specialist with Community Economic Development Associates (CEDA). Amy has served the community of Blue Earth, MN as the Economic Development Specialist since July 2020. In that role, Amy has developed a successful BR&E routine that has led to valuable insight for local economic development and financial and technical assistance efforts. Most notably, Amy has been a trailblazer for local business transition planning and has been the leader in establishing a replicable model for professional business recruitment.

This webinar is co-sponsored by:

This webinar was made possible through a gift from Compeer Financial and AgCountry Farm Credit Services to support a partnership with the University of Minnesota-Extension focused on Rural Entrepreneurship.

And thank you to the United States Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. This webinar was made possible, in part, by a grant from the US EDA in support of the Economic Development Administration University Center at the Division of Extension, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations are those of the presenter and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, Compeer Financial, or AgCountry.

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