New free service helps businesses solve problemsAlexandria companies and entrepreneurs now have a single entry point to become connected with private and public resources to solve everyday business problems.
Alexandria companies and entrepreneurs now have a single entry point to become connected with private and public resources to solve everyday business problems.
BusinessConnection – a new business assistance and referral network – was launched last week by Grow Minnesota!, a subsidiary of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
As a first step, this new service is being tested in Alexandria – as well as Chaska, Luverne and Richfield – before launching statewide next year.
BusinessConnection is open to all area businesses and can be reached toll-free by calling 1-888-MINN-BIZ (646-6249), with live operators standing by. In January, BusinessConnection will also be available via the Web site www.mnbizconnect.com.
“Our state has the business-assistance resources to solve most problems,” said Bill Blazar, senior vice president of public affairs and business development at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the state’s largest business-advocacy organization. “But our Grow Minnesota! business-retention visits also suggest that Minnesota companies are generally unaware of the resources and how to identify and access those that can solve their problems.”
Grow Minnesota!, a private-sector program, is conducted in partnership with nearly 50 local chambers of commerce. Staff and volunteers average about 600 one-to-one visits per year with owners and/or managers of Minnesota businesses.
In five years of operation, Grow Minnesota! has resolved more than 500 separate issues for individual companies.
The requests for help range from acquiring specific permits to looking for a raw material supplier for a manufacturing process to searching for potential buildings and sites to expand within a community or the state.
“Start-up and established businesses continually are seeking information important to their operations, and the answers are not always easy to track down,” said Coni McKay, executive director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. “BusinessConnection has tremendous value to get complete answers quickly. It is a one-stop resource. And the service is free to anyone.”
The number of queries and range of assistance provided were the impetus for exploring BusinessConnection.
“Our new network will increase utilization of existing assistance programs,” Blazar said. “We will help far more companies than we do today, and that will go a long way toward keeping jobs in Minnesota as well as helping businesses grow.”
Grow Minnesota! is the Chamber’s job-retention and business-growth program. BusinessConnection is a joint project of Grow Minnesota! and the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). The service is designed to be statewide, well-publicized and easy to access.
Grow Minnesota! worked closely with DEED, as well as other public and private economic development organizations, to shape BusinessConnection.
DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy underscored the value of the program. “Minnesota has the resources to help Minnesota businesses. The BusinessConnection will make them more available than ever.”
“Preserving and growing jobs is increasingly challenging in today’s global economy,” Blazar said. “Businesses face enough obstacles without being frustrated in their attempts to find answers to simple questions or to navigate the regulatory landscape.”
Grants from the McKnight Foundation to Grow Minnesota! and DEED will cover the start-up and initial operating costs of BusinessConnection. Use of the database and network will be monitored carefully to determine the program’s permanency as part of Grow Minnesota!