The Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation and the Initiative Foundation have released findings of a survey commissioned earlier this year with the Twin Cities-based Center for Economic Inclusion (CEI) to better understand local needs and opportunities to expand supports for underserved entrepreneurs.

More than 50 Black, Somali, Eastern African and other entrepreneurs of color in St. Cloud and Stearns, Benton, Sherburne and Todd counties provided input on barriers, challenges and opportunities they face in their business pursuits.

The survey and subsequent conversations revealed participants’ passions to start job-creating businesses, support the community with products and services, build wealth and create new opportunities. They also described challenges with access to information, training opportunities and obtaining funding.

Among recommendations in the detailed report, titled “Greater St. Cloud Minority Business Enterprise Needs Assessment,” were to:

  • strengthen relationships with the region’s Hispanic community
  • develop deeper relationships with neighboring Central Minnesota communities
  • gather more-detailed demographic information
  • create a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Leadership Advisory Board
  • provide mentorship and help securing loans.

Additional recommendations can be found on pages 22-24 of the report, which may be accessed at

GSDC President Patti Gartland said the findings will help her organization determine appropriate roles and opportunities for the GSDC to strengthen how it supports aspiring entrepreneurs and minority-owned business enterprises to grow and thrive in the Greater St. Cloud region.

“The Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation was pleased to partner with the Initiative Foundation to fund this in-depth study to help people of color who are or wish to become successful entrepreneurs,” said Gartland. “The recommendations provide both affirmation for the value of what’s been done by the GSDC thus far and also offers specific suggestions where opportunities appropriate to the GSDC can be seized to further make a difference.”

The Initiative Foundation will use the study’s finding to shape and grow its portfolio of entrepreneurial programs. A cornerstone program is the Enterprise Academy, which packages business skills training with one-on-one support and access to lending. The program has graduated more than 125 entrepreneurs of color since launching five years ago. The Foundation also offers free and low-cost programming as well as workshops and technical assistance. The effort has supported more than 250 underserved entrepreneurs in recent years.

“The entire region benefits when more people are equipped to pursue the American dream of small business ownership,” said Matt Varilek, Initiative Foundation president. “With the information from this project and an expanded entrepreneurship team at the Initiative Foundation, we are better positioned than ever to help meet the needs of Central Minnesota’s growing business community. ”

A CEI-identified opportunity includes working with a range of regional partners to increase access to culturally appropriate loans, especially for newer entrepreneurs, and Islamic-acceptable loans for Somali and Eastern African entrepreneurs. Other opportunities include:

  • Reducing the financial risk for startups and new businesses by providing training, mentorship, coaching, technical assistance and flexible lending.
  • Elevating and training businesses owners in Minority Business Enterprise certification and supplier diversity programs.

Varilek and Gartland invite others to reflect on the report and consider ways they can join the effort to bolster the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.


There’s an interesting article about company culture and its impact on talent retention and attraction that GSDC Talent Director Gail Cruikshank recently helped bring to fruition. We thought you’d be interested, especially since the piece includes case studies on GSDC investor organizations Central McGowan and Park Industries.

We thank The Optimist, the digital news startup for Greater Minnesota featuring solutions journalism and local art, for allowing us to share the article.

Click here to read more.


You can say Inventure keeps the lights on.

On paper, the business is essentially a real estate firm that buys, sells, and leases.  But that broad definition doesn’t quite fit the model Doug Boser and team embrace on behalf of the clients and communities they serve. “When I say firm it’s more of a well-rounded business in terms that we certainly do that. That’s the easy stuff.  That’s what a lot of firms do. What makes Inventure unique is that we’ve created a portfolio of properties that we own and operate across the state of Minnesota on behalf of ourselves and our partners. By virtue of that, we needed maintenance and facilities. So we have a facilities arm that basically takes care of each property,” Boser, Inventure’s President and CEO, explained.

Click here to read more.


There’s a lot going on, including later this week!

A Community Conversation About Business, Jobs, and the Economy – Hear Steve Grove, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, GSDC President Patti Gartland and other area leaders have a community conversation about business, jobs, and the economy from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. tomorrow – Wednesday, Sept. 14 – in Room 1-445 at St. Cloud Technical and Community College.  No RSVP is needed to attend the event.

Quarterly Business Report presentation – Hear SCSU’s King Banaian and ask questions at 8:00 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 15, online or in person at Sauk Rapids Government Center.  Register here.

GSDC Workplace Well-being Initiative sessions – Learn how your company can join the effort and benefit. Two options: 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at Mahowald offices; and via Zoom at noon Wednesday, Sept. 28.  Register here.

Dual-Training Pipeline Workforce Community Conversation with representatives from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry – 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at Great River Regional Library.  Register here.

Advanced Manufacturing Training Lab groundbreaking ceremony – 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, at SCTCC.


# # #

Sign up to receive
SHINE ON, a monthly email highlighting all the good happening in Central MN.  Click here to view the Shines Stories collection.  

Would you like to receive our Developing News Updates? Subscribe here

Contact Our Staff Team

Patti Gartland, President | 320.260.2442

Leslie Dingmann, Business Development Director | 320.493.9003

Gail Cruikshank, Talent Director | 320.260.6775

Tammy Campion, Communication & Programs Specialist | 320.252.5185