BEMIDJI -- A roundtable including entrepreneurs and business support organizations was hosted Monday by the state's economic development agency.

The virtual event, held by the Department of Employment and Economic Development, focused on the work of its new program, Launch Minnesota. The program is an initiative to build a greater network to support start-up businesses across the state.

For Monday's roundtable, the focus was on northwest Minnesota, and it included representatives from Greater Bemidji Economic Development, BSU, the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, the Northwest Minnesota Foundation and Northwest Technical College. In his comments to open the event, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove noted the importance of a statewide program connecting regional resources.

"One of the things we knew from the very beginning of focusing on this work is that innovation is happening all across Minnesota," Grove said. "So, having a regional approach to growing businesses is important."

For Dave Hengel, the executive director of Greater Bemidji, the ability to have a stronger network connecting resources is integral for helping start-ups.

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"It's not just about the resources locally," Hengel said. "Statewide, as part of the Launch network, the ability to connect from northwest Minnesota with resources in the Twin Cities is significant."

As part of the conversation, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was also referenced with officials saying start-up businesses can help the economy get back on track.

"One of the most important parts of any recessions is it does lead to renewal and new businesses being started," Grove said. "As leaders in this state, we have a choice on what kind of renewal we want to see."

"Uncertainty can be the enemy of development," Hengel said. "I get that isn't the case with all start-ups, but it does feel like it here. There's the uncertainty on what the pandemic impact will be, but even those who see opportunity can ask how long that opportunity can last, which creates uncertainty, to. I think once the vaccine comes out and some certainty is added to the timeline, you could see a rebound that's pretty quick."