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Member News: C.C. Eship / NACCE Journal Summer/Fall 2009

Big Business Development in a Small Town

Friday, September 18, 2009   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
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By Cristobal Valdez

Provost, Detroit Lakes Campus

Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Detroit Lakes, MN

"Building with Support” is the second article in a series of four chronicling the development of the M State, Business and Entrepreneurial Services (BES) in the rural community of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. The vision of the BES is to develop and strengthen entrepreneurial services in west-central Minnesota. Following the development of a solid Core Group in the BES, we sought to recruit and develop an engaged advisory board to provide guidance, vision, and expertise.

Recruiting: Zero to 18 in Six Months

In the last article, we discussed the importance of developing a foundational Core Group. While this group lends direction and oversight, we understood the need for an experienced and engaged advisory board. To be true to the entrepreneurial spirit, we needed to recruit successful entrepreneurs. In this endeavor, we did not limit ourselves to local resources and found that the people we invited were not only willing, but excited, to contribute to continued innovation and entrepreneurship in the region. Additionally, we recruited current business leaders in the community from these areas:

• Financial Services

• Technology and Communications

• Business Management

• Media and Promotions

We recruited educational partners from the K-12 and university systems and placed an emphasis on economic development professionals; we enlisted representatives from the following:

• City:

City of Detroit Lakes

City of Frazee

• County

• Region:

Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber 
of Commerce

West Central Initiative

West Central Small Business 
Development Center

• State:

Minnesota WorkForce Center

Department of Employment and 
Economic Development

• Tribal:

White Earth Reservation

Invested Experience

The accumulation of experience assembled in this advisory board has proven extremely beneficial for our endeavors. The entrepreneurs on the board represent the food preparation, manufacturing, marketing, media, office products, service, technology, and transportation sectors of employment. Collectively, they represent over 60 years of successful business development; they also have experienced a few professional failures, which also provide insights for BES customers.

Diversity by Design

We intentionally recruited a cross-section of economic developers, entrepreneurs, banking and lending professionals, manufacturers, marketing researchers, and business/community leaders. Still, the diversity of perspective and orientation provided some ideological challenges. We sought to build a strong team by actively engaging the individuals in board meetings, providing board training, and familiarizing board members with the BES Services.

We found the following experiences quickly developed a high functioning team, willing to provide diverse perspectives while working towards a like goal:

• Give Meaningful Assignments:

Each advisory board member is extremely active in their business, vocation or employment. Still, we knew they had a burning passion to 
further business development in the area. The entire concept of "giving 
back” to the community and the willingness to mentor, advise, and assist in the creation of new entrepreneurs was almost overwhelming. We found that if we gave members important, meaningful work, they attacked it with vigor.

• Creation of Communication 

− Internal Listserv

− Development of a Wiki

− Academic Program Orientations

− Board member office/site visits 
from staff

• Continual Planning and Development:

We have a continuous model of developing new services ideas, and initiatives. This summer we are establishing summer camps for high school juniors and seniors, and in the fall we will open the doors to six incubator spaces. Also this fall in conjunction with two local city governments, we will begin a Community Based Entrepreneurship planning 

• Development of Sub-committees:

− Promotion and Public Relations

− Angel Network development

− Business Incubator

− Two-year Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition

− Post-Secondary Relations

− K-12 Relations

− Research and Development

It is important to note that each sub-committee is co-chaired by a board member and a staff person from the Core Group. We appreciate that our board members are busy professionals, and we look to balance their valuable time with their willingness to actively engage in our efforts.

Committed to Excellence

In the previous article, we discussed our commitment to succeed. We have found that our advisory board members insisted on this. Again, we have recruited highly successful individuals and extremely committed business professionals. I am convinced that if we do not maintain a high level of commitment and outcomes, we will not be able to retain the current board in the game. Our initial intent was to develop a group that we could mold into a great group. We have discovered that, they in turn, have moved us to another level.

For more information about Business & Entrepreneurial Services of M State, contact Cristobal "Cris” Valdez at (218) 846-3778 or via email at

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