NACDEP Member Spotlight - April


Michael Darger, An Advocate for Business Retention and Expansion Program


His enthusiasm is infectious.  Michael Darger could be talking about NACDEP, Business Retention and Expansion National Program, community development, University of Minnesota, or subjects he’d like to know more about such as Africa or the Spanish language. All topics are attacked with the same tenacity, focus, curiosity and enjoyment.

“OF COURSE!” he exclaimed when I asked about his attendance at the upcoming National Conference, Building a Path to Resiliency.  He’ll also be treating himself to the pre-conference study tour, Sustainable New England:  Sea to Summit, to allow himself more interaction time with other community development professionals. “Conference mobile workshops create a three dimensional experience for creating camaraderie” Michael stated. He enjoys making new connections or cementing peer relationships through the different workshops offered.  The experience is different than networking in a conference room he explained.ce-main-img

Michael, Extension Specialist in Community Economics as well as Director of the Business Retention & Expansion(BR&E) Program at the University of Minnesota, brings BR&E to life in Minnesota communities. The program regards retaining and expanding existing businesses a surer economic development bet than recruiting new businesses from other areas.  The emotional benefit of community commitment and broader community involvement increases when businesses stay and grow.

Interestingly, Michael was exposed to BR&E in the non-profit world even before learning about the work of Extension professionals.  He first worked in the corporate world before he felt the pull of social change initiatives.  He worked in the University Ave Corridor of St. Paul as well as the Sherburne County Economic Development Coordinator, both positions in Minnesota.  He joined with the University of Minnesota Extension in January 2004 to continue to assist communities in effective business outreach to sustain the development of their local economies.bre-main

Michael is looking forward to a special project as lead guest editor of a special BR&E issue of Community Development, the Journal of the Community Development Society.  He graduated with an MBA from the University of Michigan and writing journal articles wasn’t required in his education.  He’s a bit daunted by the writing task but feels confident his peers will offer guidance to see to journal continue to bridge the gap between practitioners and extension professionals.  The journal will be to be published in 2017.

Michael had served on the NACDEP Board for 5 years and continues his leadership role in the membership committee.  “NACDEP allows you to network, learn, contribute to peer-reviews.  It’s fun and inspirational because there are not that many strictly community development professionals.”  When asked what he’ll be doing in five years, he replied with, “Old things, new things and I want to ‘Up the Game’ for BR&E.”  He’d like to travel to Africa in the future.  While not as far as Africa, he’s looking forward to traveling to the National Conference in Burlington, Vermont.  While there, he said, “I’ll convene with smart groups of people to advocate for vibrant communities across the US.”