The Northland Foundation will take over as host of the University of Minnesota Duluth's small business center starting next month.
In mid-October, the foundation will acquire the Northeastern Minnesota Small Business Development Center, with hopes of expanding the nonprofit’s business endeavors in the community.
While the new acquisition won’t change much about the center that’s currently operated by UMD’s Center for Economic Development in Duluth's Technology Village, the foundation is aiming to expand its work and add new community partnerships, said Tony Sertich, president of the Northland Foundation.
“We see it as a natural extension of the work that we currently do. … One of our main focus areas is economic development and economic growth,” Sertich said. “So it really complements the economic development services that we currently provide as a foundation.”
The center helps businesses that are looking to start or expand, with free planning, training, acquiring capital, marketing and more — all of which will still be offered when Northland takes over.
“Continuity is very important to us. And so it's actually our hope, with the existing clients and others, that they don't see any changes,” Sertich said.
It’s one of the state’s numerous Small Business Development Centers, all of which provide similar services. Although federally funded, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development doles out this funding every three years to entities that apply to host the centers.
The Northland Foundation was selected as the new host after discussing the transition with UMD leaders and staff from DEED, said Fernando Delgado.
Delgado leads UMD’s academic affairs office, which oversees the center, as its executive vice chancellor. He said the center’s transition allows UMD to better fulfill its strategic goal of engaging with the community.
“It's not like we're stepping back. We're stepping to the side and letting other people in the community come forward, and then seeing how that might create more partnerships among us,” he said.
To secure the grant, Northland had to contribute $300,000 in funding. Half of that funding is in-kind funding, or funding that’s in the form of goods and/or services. As the new host, it will also receive a $300,000 matching grant to run the center. But funding for the center can go beyond the $600,000 total, Sertich said.
The center will remain in its current office space in Duluth's Technology Village, and will see staff from other local organizations move in to expand its work and impact, Delgado said.
UMD’s Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies will move to the downtown space to further collaborate with the small business center, Delgado said. There have been discussions with other entities to move them or a few members of their staff to the space, but nothing is finalized.
As the demand for business consulting services increases, Sertich said partnering with other local organizations will ensure the center can grow to meet that demand.