The Grand Rapids Entrepreneurism Task Force was convened in the summer of 2014 around the belief that for a sustainable future, Grand Rapids needs to establish a culture that fosters entrepreneurs of all ages. The group participated in a training activity in November 2014 sponsored by the Blandin Foundation. In March 2015, the Task Force organized an open “World Café” meeting to solicit public input about three questions:
- What does a community that supports and encourages entrepreneurship look like?
- What resources are missing or difficult to find in our region to help entrepreneurs start or grow businesses?
- What can we do now as a community here in Itasca County to encourage entrepreneurs?
The Task Force’s next job was to gather feedback from area business owners to supplement the public input they received. The collective information will enable the group to rank the suggestions, and then to work with existing organizations (the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, local units of government, Itasca Community College, Itasca Economic Development Corporation, and others) to make some of the suggestions come to life.
“After gathering information about what’s hindering and helping entrepreneurs in our area, we are all at a point where we’d like to engage others in making changes that will enable more entrepreneurs to gain footholds,” said Diane Weber, one of 15 task force members. Diane is a former CFO at Blandin Paper Company and IEDC business consultant.
“We are grateful for the training provided by the Foundation that helped us involve a wide spectrum of the community in addressing this challenge,” added Ed Zabinski. Ed is a senior vice president at Grand Rapids State Bank and a member of the Grand Rapids City Council. “The 15 of us are certainly not going to solve this issue on our own, but we’re hoping to tee up the issues and offer grass-roots involvement to organizations and institutions who are equipped to make change happen.”
To read a copy of the preliminary report entitled “Encouraging Entrepreneurism in Grand Rapids,” follow this link: http://growgrandrapidsmn.weebly.com/.