Akua Opoku recently completed her summer internship with the City of Columbia Heights. This is what she had to say about the experience:
This internship was the most fruitful professional experience I’ve ever had. Not only was it a great learning and professional experience, but it genuinely sparked an interest for a career in economic and community development.
This internship gave me the opportunity to be the co-creator of the City’s first ever Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) program. I was able to collect and design the list of businesses for Central Ave, develop a business survey and the distribution process, and create a new business welcome packet. Through developing the BRE Program, the Façade Improvement Grant Program was born in partnership with the EDA and the Columbia Heights’ Police Department. In co-creating this program I’ve been able to learn how to create a program application, market for a program, conduct business outreach, and how to be a lead for a City program.
Not only did I gain experience co-creating the BRE Program, but with other areas in the Community Development Department. I conducted research on single lot sale programs in Minnesota and the Midwest, analyzed data, and compiled a memo for the EDA on how the City can better improve their program in the future. I also worked with the City Planner to go over and make improvements to the Design Guidelines for business as well as go through the zoning approval process for a HyVee store and gas station coming to the City which increased my knowledge on planning and zoning.
I felt like a true staff member as I attended and participated in City Council meetings and work sessions, EDA meetings, and development review committee meetings. I was able to gain a sense of different roles in city government through informational interviews with the City Manager and different Directors of various departments like human resources and public works. I am truly thankful for my supportive supervisor and department as well as my first exposure to the economic and community development field.