Economic development

Hennepin County provides assistance to businesses and municipalities through a variety of programs designed to support businesses, promote economic development, create and retain jobs, and cultivate entrepreneurs.

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Business district initiative

The Business District Initiative (BDI) provides funding to suburban municipalities within Hennepin County to support the economic vitality of priority business districts and main streets.

Download program handout (PDF)

To apply

The request for proposal (RFP) period is February 4, 2019 through February 28, 2019 for individual awards of up to $50,000.

Eligible applicants

Suburban Hennepin County municipalities, housing and redevelopment authorities, economic development authorities or port authorities. Recommended projects will go before the county board for approval of contracts.

Eligible locations

Suburban Hennepin County business districts with concentrations of neighborhood-serving retail, office, restaurant and/or entertainment uses that offer a variety of goods and services in a walkable environment.

Program Background

A thriving commercial main street or small business district is an essential part of any vibrant suburban community. Successful business districts can require extensive coordinated efforts, including:

  • Business recruitment
  • District marketing
  • Enhanced wayfinding
  • Streetscaping
  • Façade improvement incentives

Such efforts may be beyond the scope and resources of suburban communities with smaller populations.

Hennepin County started the Business District Initiative in 2015, recognizing that small businesses bring significant value to the communities in which they operate, but also to the county as a whole. They provide jobs, generate tax revenue, serve as hubs of activity, provide essential goods and services and help make places people want to live and visit. They can also foster entrepreneurship and support the region’s innovation economy.

In 2015, $194,000 was awarded to five suburban business district projects in Hopkins, Long Lake, Maple Plain, Osseo and Robbinsdale.

In 2017, $80,000 was awarded to two suburban business district projects in Hopkins and Richfield.


Nate Hood
Hennepin County program manager

CEO Next Business Institute

What is it?

  • Provides scholarships to owners of second stage growth businesses for business research combined with peer learning and business forums
  • 2019-2020 program starts fall 2019; however, recruiting and applications are being accepted on a rolling basis
  • View the program description.

What businesses are eligible?

  • Privately held businesses
  • 10 – 99 employees
  • Revenue between $1M and $50M
  • Ready to transition from small to large — past start-up stage but not yet mature
  • Appetite and aptitude for growth

CEO Next Business Institute

Formerly called “Economic Gardening,” this program supports second-stage companies through advanced business and market research, peer and cohort learning, and expert forums. Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Dakota counties contract with the Edward Lowe Foundation, who administers the program, to allow qualifying businesses to participate for free.

CEO Next Business Institute provides practical tools and techniques designed specifically for growing regional second stage companies within the counties including provision of:

  • System for Integrated Growth: 40 – 60 hours per participating CEO of intensive, advanced research
  • CEO round table sessions: eight half-day sessions for the CEOs of selected core companies
  • CEO forum events: eight sessions for participating CEOs and other second stage companies

Recent and upcoming events

Next event

Questions on the collaboration forum can be directed to Mary Matze at or 612-348-9812. Please share this invitation with businesses that you think could benefit from any of these programs!

Recent CEO Forum events

December 20, 2018 CEO Forum
Leadership & Business Growth Series (PDF)

June 22, 2018
Preparing for Exit: Lessons Learned (PDF)

May 18, 2018
The Importance of Succession Planning in Building a Profitable Business (PDF)

April 20, 2018
The Keys to Building a Successful Company: A Culture of Insight, Learning, and Innovation (PDF)

March 23, 2018
Building your business through loyalty marketing: What CEOs need to know (PDF)

January 19, 2018
From Growth to Succession (PDF)

November 17, 2017
Leveraging technology with leadership for greater success (PDF)

October 20, 2017
Contagious Culture: Our path to workplace productivity and profitability (PDF)

May 18, 2017
How to lead your business: Strategy in a digital age (PDF)

April 21, 2017
How to keep your business fit with leadership skills (PDF)

March 17, 2017
How leadership and strategy build a path to success (PDF)

February 17, 2017
Strategy for Comfortable Success (PDF)

For more information

For more information on the program and the application process, please contact the representative from your respective county or city.

Hennepin County

Mary Matze
612-348-9812 (office)

Ramsey County

Rick Howden
651-341-2454 (office)

Scott County

Stacy Crakes
952-496-8613 (office)

City of St. Paul

Marcq Sung
651-266-6615 (office)

Dakota County

Lisa Alfson
651-675-4467 (office)

Corridor planning

Hennepin County Community and Economic Development is offering Corridor Planning resources to municipalities and other local agencies for plans and studies that advance one or more of Community Works goals, which are to:

  • Enhance the tax base
  • Stimulate economic development and job growth
  • Strengthen and connect places and people
  • Innovate and advance sustainability
  • Lead collaborative planning and implementation

Applications will be evaluated on the extent to which the proposed activities advance one or more of the above goals; generate measurable, positive impacts; and reduce disparities.

Download program handout (PDF)

To apply

A call for proposals will be posted February, 4 with a deadline of February 28, 2019

Eligible applicants

Hennepin County municipalities, park or watershed districts or other local agencies and authorities.

Funding amount

Maximum award amount is $50,000.

Eligible uses

  • Land use or small area planning
  • Infrastructure planning and conceptual designs, including pedestrian and bike connections and public realm improvements
  • Redevelopment feasibility or market analyses. Site specific projects will be considered

Other types of plans and studies may be considered, provided the outcomes meet program goals. Hennepin County and recipient will choose project consultants; Hennepin County will directly contract with selected consultant.


Nate Hood, Community Works Department, by email at or by phone at 612-596-9876.

Open to business initiative

The Open to Business program provides direct technical assistance and other forms of support to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Through a partnership between Hennepin County and the community development organization Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD), Hennepin County offers financial support to suburban Hennepin County cities to launch or expand their own Open to Business initiative.

Read more about Open to Business (PDF).

Visit the Open to Business website.

Download the handout (PDF).

Services available through Open to Business

  • Business plan development
  • Feasibility studies
  • Cash flow and financing projections
  • Marketing
  • Loan request preparation
  • Advocacy with lending institutions

Hennepin County cities with Open to Business initiatives

  • Bloomington
  • Brooklyn Center
  • Brooklyn Park
  • Crystal
  • Eden Prairie
  • Edina
  • Golden Valley
  • Hopkins
  • Independence
  • Maple Grove
  • Maple Plain
  • Medina
  • Minnetonka
  • New Hope
  • Osseo
  • Plymouth
  • Richfield
  • Robbinsdale
  • St. Anthony
  • St. Louis Park
  • Wayzata

Effective outcomes for small business

Since 2012, Open to Business has supported more than 1900 small businesses with technical assistance, consultation and financial support, including $59.4 million in direct and leveraged financing to businesses in Hennepin County. The program has preserved or added new employment for 932 workers as a result of financing. In 2017, 47% of Open to Business clients were women, and 38% were minorities.

What funding is available?

Hennepin County has limited matching grants up to $12,500 available for municipalities who wish to start or grow an Open to Business initiative in their community. Funds are available on a one-time basis.

Who do I contact for more information?

Patricia Fitzgerald, Hennepin County Community Works Economic and Community Development Manager, at or 612-543-0864.

If you're a business looking to learn more or participate in Open to Business, you can contact the MCCD directly at 612-789-7337 or If your business operates or is based in one of the cities with an established Open to Business program (listed above), you can also contact your city directly to signup.

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