BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — On April 18, 2023, a diverse group of community members, including Bloomington Mayor Tim Busse and County Commissioner Debbie Goettel gathered to celebrate the 10-month community advisory-driven process of imagining the future of entrepreneurship and small business within the city of Bloomington.  

The celebration completed the first phase of engagement on a plan to build a $3.5 million 21st-century state-of-the-art small business resource center at the old Fire Station 3 by winter 2024. The center will serve as Bloomington’s flagship innovative hub for everyone with an emphasis on BIPOC businesses, women-owned ventures, artists and youth-led enterprises at every stage of inspiration.

The city received a rare 100% Net Promotor Score (NPS) from community members who participated in the advisory process. Business owner and Elevate Hennepin County manager Tashie George said “I hope this becomes a model for how all cities engage with the community.” 

Community Development Director Karla Henderson emphasizes “This wasn’t an accidental outcome, but one made with specific intention and resources.” The Small Business Center has received broad support from public and philanthropic partners such as McKnight Foundation, Hennepin County, Bloomington Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and the Creative Place Making Commission.

2043 SBC CEO Jeff Aguy and city facilitation expert Emily Larson used a deep stakeholder engagement process that worked with the community to develop ideas, confirm those ideas with the community and ask for further feedback once those ideas were implemented.

McKnight Foundation President Tonya Allen and a funder in the project reflect on the conversation around race. “Oftentimes when we talk about race, we talk about racial disparities, which is really about what we think isn’t going well. Which I believe stigmatizes people. And I really believe we need to focus on people’s aspirations,” Allen said. 

The small business resource center idea was born from the community with a recommendation from Bloomington’s Racial Equity Commission. It continues to be community driven. 

The next steps for the project include:

  • Continue engaging the neighborhood, community and stakeholders
  • Project design development partnership with 4RM+ULA and partners
  • Offering ongoing programming and value-adding activities for entrepreneurs and small business owners prior to opening

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