The Northfield Economic Development Authority is gathering input from minority-owned businesses in the community.

The EDA approved a $10,900 contract with consulting firm Strong & Starlike Consulting Inc. in May, and the firm began the project in June. It expects to have a summary ready for the EDA next month.

Strong & Starlike is in the final stages of visiting Northfield minority-owned businesses in-house, gauging any barriers they faced in opening their establishments and how the city can better serve those groups. Businesses are being asked about their business background, how many employees they have, if they have growth aspirations, and if so, how they plan to achieve that.

EDA Economic Development Coordinator Nate Carlson said an EDA subcommittee, the Socioeconomic Committee, decided hiring the firm was in the best interest of the EDA so it can better situate programming if neither microloans nor grants are available. He said the organization needs to establish a baseline to better understand the issue, and staff did not have the capacity to conduct needed outreach.

“The EDA feels at this time that there hasn’t been a conscious effort to assist minority-owned businesses,” Carlson said.

“This was hopefully to open the door.”

Carlson noted Northfield has a “fairly large percentage” of minority-owned businesses. To him, if the city wants a strong economy, all business owners need to be aware of available resources.

EDA President Andrew Ehrmann said Northfield has “incredible entrepreneurs in our minority and immigrant community.”

“It’s simple: The EDA is here to support existing business owners and incentivize more business development and growth,” he said. “And I think it’s essential that the public resources that the EDA has are known about across all demographics.”

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115.

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