The most important thing a Business Retention & Expansion (BR+E) project does is build capacity. BR+E is strategically designed to take existing community resources and employ’s its community businesses to help them come together with a plan for the future. 1
Whether you are an economic developer, a chamber of commerce, a local government official, or an interested citizen who wants to improve and ensure economic growth in your area, a BR+E project may be right for you.2
BR+E is useful for small towns, big cities, and urban neighborhoods. Small towns and large urban centres benefit from reaching out to businesses in the community to find ways to keep their doors open and do more business. It is an adaptable approach that can be used to get the “pulse” of a local or regional business climate.3 The BR+E process is flexible and entails structured confidential interviews with key business contacts.
BR+E is a low-risk community-based and action-oriented approach to business and economic development that helps communities prioritize activities. Success is often dependent on the commitment of project leaders to follow through with identified plans of action.
Why undertake a BR+E
- Existing businesses create more jobs: Investment attraction is expensive and difficult due to high volume of competition
- Existing businesses are already invested in the community: Existing businesses have a stake in the success of the community
- Existing businesses are ambassadors for the community: It is important that businesses feel supported in their community
- The BR+E process provides an early warning system: This system helps communities be proactive rather than reactive
- The process improves communities’ self-awareness: The information gathered from a BR+E project can be used for other purposes (e.g., identifying supply chain gaps, and gauging the effectiveness of economic development initiatives)
- Cost effective and low risk: It is easier and less expensive for communities to retain business than to attract more
A BR+E project is unique as it offers the opportunity for communities to build social capital and systems that can help support many community project in the future. It also allows people in the community to become involved in the project rather than allowing a project coordinator to work on the project alone.
In the coming months the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will publish a series of blog posts highlighting the stages of its Business Retention & Expansion (BR+E) Program.
1 Materials sourced from University of Minnesota Expansion
2 Materials sourced from George Morse and Scott Loveridge, Business Retention & Expansion Visitation Program: Is It For Our Community? NERCRD Publication No. 72.
3 Materials sourced from University of Minnesota Expansion