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Red Lake Nation holds focus groups to help businesses grow

(From top left, clockwise around the table) Rani Bhattcharyya, University of Minnesota Extension-Crookston; Connie Chaboyea, catering; Charlys May, artist; Lylah Beaulieu, artist; Gordon Van Wert, sculptor; Michael Darger, University of Minnesota Extension-St. Paul and Roland Hill, First Peoples Insurance Services discuss business issues this week at Seven Clans Casino. (Submitted photo)

RED LAKE—The Red Lake Nation Entrepreneur Program recently partnered with the University of Minnesota Extension Services to assess the needs of the reservation's business environment, according to a release from the program officials.

The university's Extension Services has utilized their Business Retention and Expansion Model in many Minnesota communities; however this is the first time the model has been used in Indian Country, the release said.

Tribal leaders recognize the significance small businesses have on the local economy and their focus is to determine how best to support and help the businesses grow, the release said.

The BR&E model works specifically with existing business owners to discuss issues they've experienced. The business owners' insights will be very important to the strategic planning the tribe's Economic Development and Planning Department is undertaking, the release said.

The information gathered will be used to determine what services and efforts the department, and more specifically the Entrepreneur Program, should provide or pursue for existing businesses.

The Entrepreneur Program and BR&E Committee compiled a list of 148 existing businesses, artists, and food providers, and randomly drew names from that list to participate in the BR&E Focus Groups.

On Wednesday, two extension representatives met with 40 Red Lake business owners and artists in five focus group sessions at Seven Clans Casino.

"The number of businesses attracted to this project is impressive," Michael Darger, BR&E specialist at extension, said in the release. "Because of the strong representation by businesses, discussions and interaction were very informative. We are going to have some great information to work with."

The information gathered in the focus groups will be analyzed by extension staff as well as University of Minnesota-Crookston employees and compiled into a BR&E report projected to be completed by October. The report will be presented to the Red Lake Nation in a local community meeting, the release said.

The Red Lake Nation Entrepreneur Program was established by the Red Lake Nation in 2012 to create an entrepreneurial environment that will successfully attract, develop and support Band member-owned businesses. The services provided by the program include business education, technical assistance, financing and commercial facilities. For more information, visit and click on Economic Development and Planning Department.

Funding for the project is provided by the EDA Center at the University of Minnesota Crookston, as well as the University of Minnesota Extension Services, the Otto Bremer Foundation and Red Lake Economic Development and Planning.