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 the program handout (PDF)

To apply

A call for proposals will be posted January 6 with a deadline of April 1, 2020

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.

Funding amount

Recommended projects will go before the county board for approval of contracts. Grant awards of up to $50,000 are available through the BDI program. 

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.


Ryan Kelley


CEO Next Business Institute

ceo next logo

What is it?

CEO Next Business Institute 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, 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

CEOs set aside one day per month for nine months to focus on how to manage business growth in national markets. Depending on individual needs, this could include:

  • Putting systems in place that allow for scaling
  • Information for understanding your company’s various activities
  • Deciding what roles to keep and where you need to delegate
  • Organizing your company
  • Identifying which internal functions need strengthening and how to accomplish it
  • Strategic approaches to revenue growth
  • Financing growth
  • Finding your next customer
  • Identifying top products and strategies for marketing to your customers
  • Innovating to stay ahead of competition
  • Viability of new opportunities

Download the handout (PDF).

View the program description (PDF).

Read about the SIG team members (PDF).

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

Learn more 

Recent CEO Forum events

  • May 5, 2019 CEO Forum, featuring Bjorn Stansvik, founder and CEO of MentorMate
  • April 18, 2019 CEO Forum, featuring Kjell Bergh, chairman and CEO, Borton Volvo and Borton Overseas
  • March 21, 2019 CEO Forum, featuring Bill Dierberger, president and CEO of Skyline Exhibits
  • February 21, 2019 CEO Forum “Technical Services for Entrepreneurs”
  • January 17, 2019, CEO Forum featuring Paul J. Wagner Chairman and CEO of Minnesota Wire

Apply today

Ready to apply? The process is easy. Simply register through the CEO Next Business Institute application portal and answer a few questions about your business. After you fill out the application, a program representative will meet with you to learn about your goals for the program. We do encourage you to meet with a program representative prior to applying, however, it is not required.

Apply online!

We are accepting applications through mid-October for the 2019-2020 year, however, recruiting and applications are being accepted on a rolling basis.


"Here's an analogy of my experience, when kids play baseball on the street or in the backyard it increases efficiency to have a backstop to catch the balls the catcher or batter misses. That's what this program is. It’s a backstop to catch the things that leaders need to pay attention to so we can get back to play sooner. Research provided through the program helped us to understand the magic language of the supply, distribution, sales and marketing chains. We didn't have this before the program."

– Jeff Sommers, CEO and Co-Owner, Izzy’s Ice Cream

“There’s nothing else like System for Integrated Growth out there. You might have advisers who can tell you about different market opportunities, but to have a team of people that are dedicated and laser-focused on helping you with whatever goal or objective you put in front of them is invaluable.”

– Andy Kim, Vice President, EVS Engineering, Surveying, Energy Inc.

Read a case study on EVS (PDF).

“The SIG program was completely different than other types of assistance our company has had — and it was a real turning point for me as a business owner,” Gage said. “The SIG team was able to identify not only solutions, but what the real problem was. They opened my eyes to why I’ve felt so overwhelmed the past two years.”

—Greg Gage, Co-Founder Backyard Brains

Read a case study on Backyard Brains (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 the program handout (PDF).

To apply

A call for proposals will be posted January 6 with a deadline of April 1, 2020

Eligible applicants

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

Funding amount

Maximum award amount is $50,000.

Eligible uses

Examples of eligible planning activities include:

  • Land use or small area planning involving an intensification of uses and/or employment opportunities
  • 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.

Examples of ineligible activities include:

  • Local government staff time
  • Capital costs and equipment

See program guidelines for more information.


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.

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

Upcoming information sessions:  

December 14, 2019

10-11:30 a.m.

Oxboro Library

No registration required.

Questions on this event can be directed to Mary Matze at or 612-348-9812.

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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