Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians Utilize Business Retention & Expansion Model
The Red Lake Nation Entrepreneur Program has partnered with the University of Minnesota Extension Services (UofM Extension) to assess the needs of the reservation's business environment. The UofM Extension has utilized their Business Retention & Expansion Model (BR&E) in many Minnesota communities; however this is the first time the model has been used in Indian Country. Funding for the project is provided by the EDA Center at the University of Minnesota Crookston, as well as Extension, the Otto Bremer Foundation, and the Red Lake Economic Development & Planning.
The Red Lake Nation leaders recognize the significance small businesses have on the local economy. Thus, their focus is to determine how best to support local businesses and to identify how they can assist with strengthening their capacity for success and growth.
The BR&E model works specifically with existing business owners to discuss issues they've experienced; both good and bad. The business owners' insights will be very important to the strategic planning the Economic Development & Planning Department is currently undertaking. The information gathered will be used to determine what services and efforts the department, and more specifically the Entrepreneur Program, should provide or pursue for existing businesses.
The Entrepreneur Program and BR&E Committee compiled a list of 148 existing businesses, artists, and food providers, and randomly drew names from that list to participate in the BR&E Focus Groups. On August 12th, two UofM Extension representatives met with 40 Red Lake business owners and artists in 5 focus group sessions. "The number of businesses attracted to this project is impressive," stated Michael Darger, BR&E specialist at Extension. "Because of the strong representation by businesses, discussions and interaction were very informative. We are going to have some great information to work with."
Testimonials from the Focus Group Participants:
1. "Liked the discussion; glad to be a part of change."
2. "The meeting was good; hope we can meet more often."
3. "It was very nice to hear ideas and plans; makes me very excited for the future."
4. "I was inspired by listening to other business owners and artists."
5. "Very informative; would like to attend more sessions like this."
The information gathered in the focus groups will be analyzed by staff at UofM Extension and Uof M Crookston and compiled into a BR&E Report. This report is projected to be completed by October; at which time the report will be presented to the Red Lake Nation in a local community meeting.
The Red Lake Nation Entrepreneur Program was established by the Red Lake Nation in 2012 to create an entrepreneurial environment that will successfully attract, develop, and support Band member owned businesses. The services provided by the program include business education, technical assistance, financing, and commercial facilities. For more information visit http://www.redlakenation.org and click on Economic Development & Planning Department.
A special Miigwich to Michael Darger, Director of the Business Retention & Expansion Program at the University of Minnesota Extension – St. Paul, and Rani Bhattacharyya, Community Economics Extension Education at the University of Minnesota Extension – Crookston. Plus a Chii-Miigwich to the funders who made this project possible.