The Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) program is a collaborative effort between government, community, and businesses that identifies opportunities to help businesses expand, retain and create jobs. The program also encourages the implementation of agreed upon activities to achieve goals, and actions to improve the local business climate.
As part of the Economic Developers Council of Ontario 2019 Annual Conference, the Orillia Community Development Corporation and Almaguin Highlands shared their outcomes in a session entitled “Beyond the Final Report – Calibrating the Success of BRE Programs”
Each of these projects identified key opportunities that could help promote business expansion and increase business growth.
Ontario’s Lake Country BR+E
Ontario’s Lake Country BR+E was a project led by the Orillia Community Development Corporation in 2016. Following the success of the 2011 Orillia BR+E study and the subsequent progress made to enhance the municipalities’ business environment, the implementation of a regional BR+E study was identified as a priority. The BR+E program also provided local Economic Development Offices with the perspective of local business on the economy, community and relationships with the municipalities and other key stakeholders.
The BR+E identified the following Regional and Local goals to:
- Reduce barriers to the planning and development processes
- Foster regional collaboration for short- and long-term development and growth to ensure investment readiness
- Improve internet services (affordability, access, speed, reliability)
- Reduce the cost of electricity
- Support the expansion of small businesses (with 100 or fewer employees) and entrepreneurs
- Enable growth and assist businesses in leveraging new opportunities (including recreational facilities, new developments, festivals and events)
- Better align the workforce with the needs of employers
- Develop innovative regional transportation options
After the final report, sample outcomes to support these goals include:
- Oro-Medonte: improved infrastructure for internet services, addressed planning and development barriers, and improved investment readiness.
- Ramara: developed an economic advisory committee, addressed planning and development barriers, improved infrastructure for internet services and increased marketing for the industrial park.
Almaguin Highlands BR+E
The Almaguin Highlands project involved 13 municipalities, with 12 sectors and surveying of 267 businesses. For this region, BR+E was the first regional economic development project in over 15 years that required investment from all parties.
“It (the BR+E project) has ultimately helped pave the way for larger scale long-term regional economic development”.
The BR+E project had the following recommendations to support local businesses:
- Develop regional marketing strategies and explore joint marketing opportunities
- Develop and host workshops focused on key learning needs such as marketing seminars, networking, e-marketing, joint advertising
- Introduce a variety of employer consideration topics over time including: employee engagement, retention strategies, training best practices
There have been a number of activities in the region to support the BR+E recommendations including: Wrap up Almaguin and Feast in Almaguin. In addition, over $125K in partnership funds were leveraged using BR+E results, plus over $530K worth of in-process applications for future projects have been allocated.
As a result of undertaking BR+E projects, Ontario’s Lake Country and Almaguin Highlands have started implementing short- and long-term actions to target key issues. Opportunities, such as workforce development, regional collaboration, business development, and community development, were identified focus areas to drive business expansion and improve job retention and creation.
Visit our website for more information about the Ontario BR+E program.