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.

To apply

The request for proposal (RFP) period is February 4, 2019- 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.

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.



Corridor planning

Hennepin County Community and Economic Development is offering Corridor Planning resources to municipalities and other local agencies and authorities for plans and studies that advance one or more of the Community Works’ program goals. Priority will be given to proposals that address community and economic development challenges, impact economically distressed areas, and/or align with multimodal transportation corridors in Hennepin County.

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

Studies, plans or preliminary designs focused on County roads or other transportation, commercial or transit corridors and address one or more of the following:

  • Land use
  • Housing
  • Market feasibility and redevelopment
  • Pedestrian or bike connections
  • Storm water management, watersheds, open space
  • Sustainability
  • Public realm improvements

Hennepin County and recipient will choose project consultants; Hennepin County will directly contract with selected consultant. 

Download handout (PDF) 

How to apply

Proposers should use the application form. Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis beginning December 1, 2016 until all the funds have been awarded.


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

Economic development infrastructure fund

Relocating, starting, or expanding a business can involve extraordinary costs, such as demolition, site clearance, relocating utilities, or replacing inadequate water and sanitary sewer systems. These costs are common barriers for job creation projects that involve intensification of land uses or reuse of functionally obsolete sites.

Hennepin County has up to $1 million in grant funding available to support business recruitment and expansion through targeted investments in infrastructure upgrades and extraordinary costs associated with starting or expanding a business.

The Economic Development Infrastructure Fund is a pilot initiative designed to enhance the economic competitiveness of Hennepin County by leveraging private investment, increasing the tax base and creating and retaining jobs.

The Economic Development Infrastructure Fund is intended to be a funding source of last resort when all other potential sources, both private and public, are insufficient for the project to move forward.


Municipalities in Hennepin County may apply for assistance through the Economic Development Infrastructure Fund for projects that include new or expanding businesses with a demonstrated financial need due to extraordinary costs, such as demolition, site clearance, soil stabilization, site improvements, or utility relocation and upgrades. The proposed project must support a business that:

  • Will expend a minimum of $500,000 in real property improvements (construction, renovation, etc.) within 18 months of award
  • Create a minimum of ten new permanent, full-time jobs (2,080 hours annually) that will be paid at least $13.01 in wages (adjusted annually) while maintaining existing employment numbers.

To avoid potential duplication of resources, projects that receive assistance through the Economic Development Infrastructure Fund will be restricted from seeking funding from Hennepin County's Transit Oriented Development Program.

Read more about the Economic Development Infrastructure Fund (PDF)

Download handout (PDF) 

Contact for more information

If you have questions or requests for more information contact: or 612-543-0864 or or 612-348-4926.

Economic gardening program

Register now

Registration is now open for the 2018-2019 Economic Gardening program. Forums and events will begin in early fall 2018.

Click here to register

What is it?

  • Provides scholarships to owners of second stage growth businesses for business research combined with peer learning and business forums
  • 2018-2019 program starts fall 2018; however, recruiting and applications are being accepted on a rolling basis

Download handout (PDF) 

What businesses are eligible?

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

Regional Economic Gardening Network

Program description (PDF)

Recognizing the need for sustained growth of second-stage growth companies, the counties of Hennepin, Anoka, Scott and Ramsey have established the Regional Economic Gardening Network to provide select growth companies with no cost business research and enhancement. Companies who participate in this opportunity must show potential for job creation and longer-term business growth.

Hennepin County previously funded a successful “pilot” Economic Gardening project which assisted in the design of this current partnership program. Hennepin County is the lead agency in coordination with Ramsey, Scott, and  Anoka  Counties. The counties implement the Edward Lowe Foundation’s Economic Gardening Program that provides practical tools and techniques designed specifically for growing regional second stage companies within the counties including provision of:

  • Custom research: 40-60 hours per participating CEO
  • CEO round table sessions: 8 half-day sessions for the CEOs of selected core companies
  • CEO forum events: 8 sessions for participating CEOs and other second stage companies

Recent and upcoming events 

Next event:

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

Speaker: Rhonda Olsen, vice-chairperson, Great Clips, Inc.

Thursday, December 20, 2018
7:30 a.m. – Registration and continental breakfast (sponsored by Insperity)
8 a.m. to 9 a.m. – Presentation and Q&A

WIPFLi - Conference Room
7650 Edinborough Way, Suite 300
Edina, MN 55435

Recent CEO Forum events:

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

Hennepin County

Scott County

Ramsey County

Anoka County

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 handout (PDF) 

 Services available through Open to Business include:

  • 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: Hennepin County, including: 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 and 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 at or 612-543-0864, economic and community development manager, Hennepin County Community Works Department.

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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