Heads up, downtown business owners; three college students are going to be paying you a visit in the very near future. These are no ordinary college students, however. These students applied for and were accepted by the College Board of Business Consultants (CBBC).
The CBBC is the brainchild of Rick Estenson of First National Bank. When the two college presidents, Rob Oden of Carleton and Chris Thomsforde of St. Olaf, spoke at an NDDC Forum last year, they highlighted the importance of students volunteering in their communities but recognized that it is often a learned behavior. Rick started the CBBC to give the students an opportunity to learn.
Rick soon got Lynda Grady of the Northfield Enterprise Center (NEC) involved. The NEC is a non-profit organization that helps area businesses succeed and grow. Working with Bob Will of Carleton and Sian Muir of St. Olaf, Lynda helped match students with projects.
The resulting team is a group of motivated and energetic students from both colleges who were selected for their skills, experiences and interests. They are looking to make a real difference in the community.
Lynda also succeeded in getting the cooperation of the other banks in the community. Community National and Wells Fargo are now part of the Board. The entity has been named the NEC CBBC.
Always alert for potential resources that will contribute to a vibrant and vital downtown, the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation quickly proposed a project. For some time now, we have wanted to gather some basic information about the businesses that make up our downtown. The NDDC recently received a grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Fund (SMIF), a Minnesota-based foundation committed to strengthening southern Minnesota’s economy and communities, to gather information on existing assets to leverage additional economic growth.
SMIF also provided us with a survey instrument. It basically inventories the businesses in the downtown district. We hope to get basic information like the name, address, and contact information but also to get information on the type of business, the type of products offered and purchased, and the size of business either in total sales or number of employees. Ultimately, we hope that this information will help us identify recruitment opportunities to enhance the business mix or sales opportunities for existing businesses within our community.
Of course, this is all dependent on your willingness to participate. The information will be kept confidential on an individual basis and only reported in the aggregate. We do hope that you will meet with the students and cooperate with their efforts. We think that downtown will benefit economically from this project.
So be on the lookout for these three college students, Ethan Singer and Isil Cinar from Carleton and Claudia Klug from St. Olaf. As Rick says, “These students aren’t receiving pay or credit, they are looking for an opportunity to get out of the books and into the real world”.
So please, give them some real-world experience, right here in downtown Northfield.