Minnetonka man aims to start Golden Valley Business Council

Gv17NWbusinesscouncilGary Aiken wants to get everyone on the same page.
The Minnetonka resident is in the process of forming a business council as part of a project sponsored by the Golden Valley Rotary.
Businesses, school districts and community organizations would be invited to share projects and ideas in an open format with a prepared agenda hosted monthly by the Golden Valley Rotary. Aiken is a current Golden Valley Rotary member and past president.
Meetings would be less than 90 minutes and tentative plans call for the council to meet Thursday mornings in the community room of the Golden Valley Byerly’s. Benefits to participation would include exposure through a “Spotlight on Business” program and the chance to build relationships with other businesses.
“This community has a rich, diverse group, but nobody knows what the others are doing,” Aiken said during a presentation at the Jan. 15 Golden Valley Rotary meeting. “It’s like we’re all in our own little cells and don’t know.”
A business council has been tried before in Golden Valley, Aiken said. The TwinWest Chamber of Commerce has affiliated business councils in Plymouth, St. Louis Park and a joint program for Crystal and New Hope. Aiken attended one of the Plymouth council’s meetings recently and praised the diversity of the agenda, which included updates from the local school district and city government.
“It was very enlightening,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is the kind of stuff we want in Golden Valley.’ It’s a place where you can see on the agenda that people are coming together.”
Aiken made a similar presentation during the Golden Valley City Council-Manager meeting Jan. 8 and described the city’s response as “very positive.”
While there seemed to be a lot of interest in the idea, he noted Jan. 8, “talk is cheap,” he joked.
“We’ll hold the meeting and see who shows up,” Aiken told the council. “The key is that I wanted to make sure I had you folks’ support, and if you had any concerns. I’m glad you’re excited. I’m pretty pumped about it.”
Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris said Jan. 16 that a business council could provide an opportunity for public and private partnership between the local business community and government.
“The possibilities are only limited by our creativity,” he said. “The city, and government, can’t do everything for everybody – but that doesn’t mean we can’t work together with the private sector. The way I see it, this will create a two-way communication between the business community and city government, as well as help to convene a roundtable for other levels of government, too. We can have the communication and be a resource to each other.”
Golden Valley Rotary President Jeff Dehler is a member of the Crystal Business Association, which he described as “a great way to connect with my community.” He thinks participating in a Golden Valley Business Council may offer similar benefits.
“One, you meet people who are providing services or products you need and don’t know who to go to,” he said. “You’ll get a referral that is really useful, because it is someone you know. My business grew from being part of the Crystal Business Association, and I expect my business to grow even more from being involved with the Business Council. There is also the community aspect. With the Crystal Business Association, we started doing fund-raisers for the Crystal Crime Prevention board, so we’re giving back to our community.”
The idea for a business council is not his, Aiken stressed, but he does believe that the idea has potential and is worth pursuing. He hopes to have an announcement ready in time for the annual State of the City Address in a few weeks, or by April at the latest.
“I seem to be in the right place at the right time to string it all together and make it work,” Aiken said. “I see this as something Golden Valley could capitalize on in the future with – by working together, sharing information. I feel the downside is very little, and the upside is very high for our club. If this falls on its face … it doesn’t hurt me personally. Nobody involved will lose face on it. So we’ll give it a good old try to see if it works, and I’ll plan to do it forever if it works.”
“I’m really excited to see how it can grow from here, because I think that this can offer one more opportunity for people to get involved, and make Golden Valley a better place,” Dehler said.