Minneapolis offers business help

Minneapolis has a pilot program to help make it easier to give assistance to local businesses.

by James Nord

A pilot outreach program from the city of Minneapolis meant to expand commerce and spread awareness about existing tools the city offers to entrepreneurs began last week and will continue through the end of the year. The outreach aims to make the different services available to entrepreneurs more accessible, personal and cohesive. âÄúThese programs, these services that the city provides have been in place for decades. WeâÄôre just looking for new ways to reach out to the business community,âÄù said Andy Carlson, city of Minneapolis business services specialist. The focus of the program is to assist with business financing, finding a location, permits that may be required to start it and workforce training. The city partnered with the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers to provide micro-loans to entrepreneurs, and it offers a low interest rate loan program as well. âÄúOur main objective is to make small businesses aware of how the city can assist them,âÄù Carlson said. âÄúNow, itâÄôs more than just requiring a fee for a permit or license, we actually have very good programs that can help them be successful.âÄù Businesses near the University of Minnesota are eligible to take advantage of the services, and the Stadium Village Commercial Association discussed the program at a recent meeting, said association president Nancy Rose Pribyl. âÄúA place like Stadium Village, I think what makes it unique, is some of the smaller independent businesses âĦ so I think that definitely having an entrepreneurial focus and information to help people launch new businesses could be beneficial to us,âÄù Pribyl said. Sherman Ho , a University alumni and co-owner of Bun Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich shop on Washington Avenue that opened in May , didnâÄôt take advantage of the tools Minneapolis has to offer when starting his business, because he had prior experience. However, he plans to use them in the future. âÄúTheyâÄôre a good source of information, not only for loans but anything that has to do with the business âĦ theyâÄôre always very helpful,âÄù he said. Carlson stressed that Minneapolis has services for existing businesses as well as those in every stage of development. For entrepreneurs interested in starting a business, Carlson said the earlier they set up a consultation the better, because the city can help them overcome unforeseen problems along the way, as well as develop an initial business plan. âÄúWe donâÄôt want people running into trouble having to sign a lease and then find out what they want to do there is not allowed by the zoning code or the building code for that matter,âÄù Carlson said. âÄúWe want to provide helpful information so that they can avoid making costly mistakes.âÄù Because it is a pilot program, the service will run until the end of the year, when it is up for review. The city will track how many people participated and the level of demand before making a decision on its future, Carlson said. While the state of the economy may force some entrepreneurs to pause before committing to a new venture, Carlson is optimistic about the future. âÄúThey always say, âÄòthe best day to start a business is the last day of a recession,âÄô so weâÄôre seeing a lot of entrepreneurs, people that have had ideas that are now moving forward to make that a reality,âÄù Carlson said. âÄúI think itâÄôs an opportune time to think about starting your own business.âÄù