Business Resources Collaborative Shares Progress

Jim Roth, Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers

February 15, 2011

Six months ago, the Business Resources Collaborative (BRC), along with Met Council Chair Peter Bell and Mayors R.T. Rybak and Chris Coleman, publicly announced a comprehensive Central Corridor work plan that encompassed three broad goals and 29 strategic objectives. Since that time, the BRC has been hard at work making progress on the goals and objectives. 

Construction Mitigation

  • The Met Council established and communicated a number of standards for notifying affected properties in regard to construction starts, temporary access plans, and disruptions to utilities, sidewalks and driveways. Detailed communication plans have been distributed to areas scheduled for March construction, including brochures, e-newsletters, and posters to keep business and property owners informed about construction.
  • The City of Saint Paul and the Met Council identified ‘hot spots’ where parking changes present challenges and the City of Saint Paul created a $1.5 million fund to help businesses retool their parking.
  • As utility relocation got underway in Lowertown, the Met council worked with the businesses to improve signage to better direct customers. The contractors are in the process of developing construction access and signage plans and will soon share with property owners.

Business Support

  • BRC members (including U7, Asian Economic Development Association, University Avenue Betterment Association, African Development Center and the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers) continue to offer financial, legal, and marketing services.  Both cities also have staff meeting directly with businesses up and down the corridor to address specific concerns.
  • In addition to these direct services, corridor-wide efforts are taking shape, including: “Discover Central Corridor,” a St. Paul Chamber marketing initiative intended to encourage local shopping; a Midway Chamber-led grassroots campaign designed to encourage customer traffic during construction; and a “loyalty” card program to involve large employers and institutions.
  • The “Ready for Rail” package originally announced in July has been distributed and is available in Spanish, English, Hmong Vietnamese and Somali. The companion “Ready for Rail” website is also up and running with information about construction schedules and resources for businesses in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
  • Also announced in July, the Central Corridor Loan Fund is a $1.5 million fund available for loans of up to $10,000 to qualifying small businesses. With the early utility relocation in Lowertown already underway, three businesses there were able to secure loans.  An RFP will be released soon to determine the administrator(s) of the fund as it expands to the rest of the Corridor.

Economic Development

  • As we look to the future of possibilities along the corridor, there is a new resource for small businesses along this and other major transit corridors. In late October, the Twin Cities was selected as one of five regions for an award by the Living Cities “Corridor of Opportunities” initiative. As part of the award, a new small businesses loan fund for expansion and real estate acquisition will be managed by the Neighborhood Development Center.

What’s Ahead

  • With construction just around the corner, the BRC is refining an evaluation plan that will help monitor and assess business changes in the Corridor.
  • The grassroots marketing campaign to help direct customer traffic to businesses affected by construction will be unveiled early in 2011.
  • After months of gathering input, developing and implementing the initial plan, and studying evaluation indicators, the BRC is now evaluating and defining its responsibilities and priorities to determine its future role in the Central Corridor.