Maple Grove plots new small business growth
From Maple Grove's Main Street to the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes and beyond, it's small business that helps fuel the community.

Now Maple Grove is the latest city to offer the Open to Business program designed to help start a successful small business or nurture an existing one.

"Industry is kind of the backbone of a community whereas small businesses is kind of the heart and soul of a community," said Carie Fuhrman, Maple Grove's Economic Development Manager.

Fuhrman estimates there are about 1,750 small businesses currently in Maple Grove, but there's always the opportunity to grow more.

"We know that talent is out there in the community, we just want something to help bring that forward," said Fuhrman.

Enter the Open to Business program from the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers. The program first started with a contract with the City of Brooklyn Park in 2010. Now it's offered in more than 70 communities around the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro areas.

"It's just an opportunity to get an objective, third party view to your business," said Rob Smolund, business advisor with Open to Business.

The program offers free one-on-one business advising and a loan program to help budding entrepreneurs and existing business owners better understand the landscape.

"What I try to direct them [entrepreneurs] to is 'OK, test it now,' see if other people like your product and see if there is enough of other people that like your product that will make this a viable business," said Smolund.

The program has helped businesses like Robbinsdale's Travail restaurant expand into a new location, and it helped Omni Brewing Company open its doors.

"It's a good example that this program really does work," said Fuhrman.

Starting this month, Maple Grove is offering the Open to Business program at its government center. Free business counseling appointments are available the second Tuesday of each month.

"I'm looking forward to being in Maple Grove, helping startup businesses and existing businesses," said Smolund.

Last year, Open to Business advisors met with close to 900 entrepreneurs in the area. For more information on setting up an appointment in Hennepin County, call 612–843–3260.

Alexandra Renslo reporting

January 9, 2017


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