Greater Fergus Falls (GFF) is a non-profit economic development organization that serves Fergus Falls and a 25-mile service area. Under the direction of a diverse 13-person Board of Directors, GFF provides a range of economic development services to grow our local and regional economy.
GFF's four primary goals are business development and attraction, marketing and promotion, partnerships, and organizational sustainability. GFF prioritizes business development and attraction of new business to our community through a comprehensive list of available sites, technical assistance, workforce development efforts and streamlining the development process (eliminating barriers). Secondly, GFF streamlines messaging to proactively promote Fergus Falls to businesses, realtors, developers, and investors. Thirdly, GFF leverages partnerships to maximize impact; and lastly, GFF works to build processes, procedures, and relationships to ensure organizational sustainability.
In 2020, GFF staff met with over 200 existing businesses with several interested in expanding. In that same time frame, GFF assisted over 20 new start-ups in opening their doors. These businesses ranged from a pop-up boutique candy shop to a medical spa, the likes of which our community has never had. In March 2020 we launched our Entrepreneur Initiative and have since provided 1:1 consulting services to over 40 new and early stage entrepreneurs, further affirming a growing appetite for entrepreneurship in this community.
At GFF, no two days are the same! In 2020, the global pandemic turned our business community upside down, and we quickly pivoted to meet the the need of our businesses and property owners. Excluding COVID-19 related inquiries, we processed a total of 409 individual inquires from businesses, developers, investors and realtors. This nearly quadrupled the number of inquiries processed in 2019.
Also, in an effort to continue growing the business community, GFF launched an Entrepreneur Initiative in March 2020. This no-cost, one-on-one, confidential business coaching program targets new and early-stage entrepreneurs to provide start-up coaching and help improve their business readiness levels. This program offers full-service start-up coaching, business management (aimed at stabilizing and growing existing business), and professional development opportunities to upskill entrepreneurs. Resources available 24/7 from our website under eLab. In 2020, we've referred 37 clients into this program with 26 completing the program. Of those who completed the program, we are proud to say, ten officially launched a new business.