Archived Story

Businesses have new connection [UPDATED]

Published 9:47am Tuesday, November 16, 2010 Updated 9:50am Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Anyone who runs a business will say it’s a lot more difficult than it looks, especially in Minnesota at a time when jobs are moving to surrounding states.

That’s why the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce launched BusinessConnection, an online database and referral network of businesses’ most frequently asked questions about doing business in the state, with the goal of helping Minnesota businesses grow and retaining businesses in the state.

Built and operated by Grow Minnesota!, the idea for a free, go-to service started after the agency visited with thousands of businesses statewide over seven years, said Bill Blazar, senior vice president of public affairs and business development. During these retention visits, representatives encourage businesses to remain and expand in Minnesota, and they found that about one in eight would also ask a question related to doing business in the state, indicating the need for a one-stop database with answers.

“We’re trying to reach out to as many businesses as possible,” Blazar said. “This acts as a bridge between a company that’s got a question and an answer to that question.”

Lisa Workman, executive director of the Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce, is also starting to promote the website to area businesses as a resource for asking business-related questions.

On the website, www.mnbizconnect.com, answers can be found via a keyword search or by asking a question. The home page also lists the current most popular answers, reflecting trends in the questions businesses are asking. If the visitor can’t find an answer, he or she can send an e-mail through the website or call 1-888-MINN-BIZ, and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce will respond within 24 hours on business days.

BusinessConnection provides answers and referrals to address a variety of business-related subjects, including starting a business, expanding, legal structures, environmental permits, business loans, local permits, patents, insurance, hiring and training employees, marketing and more.

“In this economy, coming out of a recession, we want to make it easier for them to do business in Minnesota and come out of the recession more quickly,” Blazar said. “And when the economy is strong, to take advantage of it.”

The website has been available since Feb. 1, and since then, Blazar said there have been 6,000 keyword searches and 130 e-mailed questions. Most have been from Minnesota, but several questions have come from outside the state and different countries.

The Chamber is now beginning to examine trends to update content based on questions the website was unable to answer.

“We want this website just to not have anything keep someone from doing business,” Blazar said. “That’s the great virtue of the Internet — it’s available whenever someone has time to ask a question.”

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