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Brilliant business idea? New center can help

DETROIT LAKES - It's the latest word in rural economic development: Entrepreneurship.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty is seeking approval from the Minnesota Legislature this month for his Strategic Entrepreneurial Economic Development (SEED) program.

With it, Pawlenty hopes to cultivate small business growth in rural Minnesota, both by developing new ones, and by helping existing small businesses grow.

Minnesota State Community & Technical College (MSCTC) in Detroit Lakes is positioning itself to be on the cutting edge of that movement, with the creation of its Business and Entrepreneurial Services (BES) Center.

But to make that happen, MSCTC-DL Provost Cris Valdez and the BES Core Group are seeking community input, by hosting an open house this Friday, Feb. 8 (not Feb. 1, as was stated in an article in Sunday's DL Tribune).

A highlight of this event will be a special presentation by Jeffrey A. Stamp, who currently serves as the chair of the Entrepreneurship Program at the University of North Dakota.

Stamp was the inventor, creator and brand manager of Baked Lays for Frito-Lay, which achieved $230 million in first-year sales and was named by Ernst and Young as the top brand introduction in the 1990s for the food sector.

After his corporate life, Stamp built his own successful business as a master brand innovator in both consumer goods and technology arenas by serving for six years as the vice president of technology for Richard Saunders International's Eureka! Ranch, a top new product and service creativity think-tank.

Valdez is hoping Stamp will be the first in a series of speakers who will come to the college to share their ideas on entrepreneurship.

"We have some very successful entrepreneurs right in the Detroit Lakes area," he said. "We really believe this can develop into a speaker series... there is a lot of peer-to-peer learning that could happen."

"His (Stamp's) intention in coming here is to get this whole community fired up about entrepreneurship," said Patty Heath Gordon, director of the new BES Center. "He's from Minnesota -- and he likes to give back (to his home state)."

Stamp's presentation will begin at 10 a.m. in the large conference center (Room C-101) at MSCTC-DL. It is expected to last approximately 90 minutes, and will be followed by a brief question-and-answer session. A light lunch will be served afterwards.

Valdez hopes the information gained from community members attending the open house will enable BES to better determine what local instructional needs are in the areas of business planning, target markets, human resources, etc.

"We'd like to get a general understanding of what folks here think they need, and we're asking community members if they would like to participate (in the development process," Valdez said.

Entrepreneurship is not just about developing new businesses, he noted -- it's about finding ways to improve existing businesses as well.

"Entrepreneurship is going to be a key driver for economic development in this area -- developing ideas into a marketable product or business that would create employment opportunities for the area," he added. "It's the fastest-growing educational discipline."

The BES is an entrepreneurial venture to help improve the local and regional economy through education, training and small business creation.

The BES Core Group of eight MSCTC faculty, staff and administrators has worked to develop the venture to its current state, including the recruitment of an advisory board.

"The mission of the BES Center of MSCTC is to 'create a culture of innovation and success, by strengthening new and existing businesses and individuals through professional development training and services to meet present and future needs,'" Gordon explained. "Our vision is to educate and empower entrepreneurs throughout Minnesota."

For more information, contact Cris Valdez at 218-846-3778 or via e-mail at or Patty Heath Gordon at 218-846-3810 or via email at

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454