Contractor to help Lake Elmo’s downtown evolve

The University of Minnesota Extension Service will help Lake Elmo get a better picture of its downtown market, and how its business community could grow.

The Lake Elmo City Council March 18 approved a $750 contract with the Extension Service, which offers “Community Economics” analysis and research on business retention and expansion, to help tailor a plan for the downtown’s future. Extension specialists will gather input from city staff, businesses and community leaders to identify who spends money in the city’s downtown and how the city could attract more businesses to set up shop there.

The end result will be a “market area profile.”

A new market for old corridor?

City staffers say the profile will help inform the future of the oldest part of the city, which is due for a “makeover,” as the city introduces new business and housing to the area. Lake Elmo Avenue is expected to be reconstructed in the next two years, offering the city an opportunity to make infrastructure and aesthetic improvements to potentially encourage development.

“(The market area profile) will be a key element of how we decide how we proceed with the development and potential redevelopment of the Village planning area,” planning director Kyle Klatt said at the meeting.

City staff will also spend time working with area businesses, whose participation is crucial to the profile’s success.

The study will use demographic and retail sales information to help Lake Elmo better understand its market. The hope is to create business strategies and community-based plans that will bolster the local economy, according to the Extension proposal.

The market area profile will include:

• The geographic reach of Lake Elmo’s trade area, which a committee of business owners and community leaders will help determine

• The spending potential of local residents

• Demographics of households

• Income levels of households

• Types of media used by households in the trade area

Mayor Mike Pearson said the profile may help the city find a “void,” where certain needs of consumers in the area aren’t yet being met by Lake Elmo businesses, isolating specific opportunities for growth.

And $750 is a small price to pay for the data, he said.

“We’re kind of partnering with the business community to help us get this information and act on it,” Pearson said in an interview. “Hopefully something will come out of it.”

The information is also meant to empower businesses to maintain and boost their customer base. The analysis will pinpoint purchasers’ lifestyles and “purchasing power.”

“I like the emphasis on the business owners,” council member Mike Reeves said at the meeting. “We’re talking about customers, potentially, for them.”

The council voted to approve the project; council members Anne Smith and Wally Nelson were absent.

The Extension will organize the data into easy-to-understand reports accessible to the public. It will guide community discussions, applying input from locals to the analysis of the data and prompting new questions.

The project is expected to take six to nine months to complete.

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7814 and Follow her at

“(The market area profile) will be a key element of how we decide how we proceed with the development and potential redevelopment of the Village planning area.”

Kyle Klatt
Lake Elmo
planning director

Looking for answers

Questions researchers hope to help development professionals, organizations answer:

• What new businesses might succeed in our town?
• How can we effectively use media to market our community and its businesses?
• What community events or festivals would attract the audience in our trade area?
• What main street or tourism development strategies would work for this market?

Questions to help businesses answer:

• How can I better reach my customers?
• Do I have a viable business plan for this market?
• How can we change our inventory or expand our product lines to increase profits?

Source: the University of Minnesota Extension Service proposal


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