Edina Chamber of Commerce receives $800,000 loan for Innovation Lab

by Megan Phillips

The Edina Housing and Redevelopment Authority on Nov. 17 unanimously approved a loan agreement with the Edina Chamber of Commerce for up to $800,000 for the new location of the Edina Innovation Lab, a business development center.

The Edina Innovation Lab began as a pilot program in July with its first cohort of nine businesses and 10 individuals. The lab trains entrepreneurs and business owners to grow and evolve their businesses in an ever-changing environment.

The Innovation Lab is currently located at 3300 Edinborough Way, Suite 650. The new location will be at 7301 Metro Blvd., Suite 520.

Construction of the lab will begin as soon as possible and the lab plans to move in by June 30, 2023, according to Bill Neuendorf, economic development manager for the city.

The Edina Innovation Lab takes inspiration from Bloomington and Brooklyn Park, according to Neuendorf.

Brooklyn Park has purchased a property for $7 million and has dedicated a portion of the property to a small-business resource center. Bloomington has donated property toward a similar program in addition to declaring a 20-year commitment to fund the program.

“We’re looking at a similar outcome in Edina with a much different approach,” Neuendorf said.

The Chamber of Commerce is partnering on the project with SCORE, a Minneapolis-based business management consultancy; Open to Business, a confidential business counseling service for current and prospective entrepreneurs; Hennepin County and Edina Public Schools, according to the Nov. 15 City Council meeting agenda packet.

Neuendorf recommended that the Innovation Lab be eligible for up to $250,000 of the loan to be forgiven because the lab meets several goals of the city’s comprehensive plan.

He recommended $150,000 of the loan be forgiven to provide the Chamber of Commerce with money needed to run initial fundraising operations and that $50,000 be forgiven for each of up to two equity-based cohorts.

Additional conditions of the loan include that the lab must submit an annual report about its progress to the HRA, the lab must remain active for the full-term of the lease, other business agencies, such as Open to Business, may use facilities and there must be an HRA spokesperson on the lab’s advisory board.

Neuendorf also discussed the idea of a “revolving loan fund” to support projects similar to the Innovation Lab using SPARC money, unallocated tax increment financing monies used to assist businesses who are reconstructing.

“We could spend them once, issue grants and give the funds away or we can loan the money and establish a revolving loan fund so that we can fund one project today. When the loan [is] repaid we can reuse those monies, fund another project in the future, keep it revolving until funds run out,” Neuendorf said.

The primary program offered through the Innovation Lab is called Business Innovating and Growing. BIG is a six-month program with courses in business fundamentals, including finance, marketing, relationship management, sales, human-centered design, legal, accounting, media marketing strategies, employment recruitment and human resources.

Each cohort at the lab meets twice a month for two hours for six months and can have a maximum of 10 participants.

The lab will run three cohorts in its first year at the new location. In order to participate, businesses must have a minimum of three years of successful operations. During its second year of operation, the lab will run eight cohorts.

In addition to the $800,000 loan from the HRA, the Edina Chamber of Commerce could receive $150,000 as part of the city’s proposed phase two spending plan for the American Rescue Plan Act funds. The City Council will vote whether to approve the proposed ARPA spending plan at its Dec. 6 meeting.

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