A strong Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) program can help communities understand and address prospects and issues facing their business community. Amidst a global COVID-19 outbreak that has significantly impacted local economies, it is crucial, now more than ever, to consider BR+E as a means to:
- assess the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak to the local economy
- identify current and potential opportunities and challenges that lie ahead
BR+Es work by using survey questions to conduct live interviews with the business community. Once the data has been collected it is used to formulate actions to support the business community. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ (OMAFRA’s) BR+E program helps communities develop situation specific surveys which ask meaningful questions that in turn provide the data needed to plan for economic recovery and future resiliency.
This post will examine the importance of undertaking BR+E in the current context.
Why is BR+E important now?
Businesses around the world are facing uncertainty and many have been required to close (temporarily and for some permanently) or alter operations. As the Canadian economy reopens, businesses are taking a good hard look at the way they operate. Tactics for reopening that are being considered and adopted include:
- remote working arrangements
- enforcement of physical distancing regulations
- the use of personal protective equipment, and
- the establishment of e-commerce channels
During or after a significant economic shock, a BR+E process can play a number of key roles by:
- estimating the scale and scope of the impact on your local and regional economy
- identifying businesses that may need help
- helping your community strategically plan for economic recovery
- Estimating the scale and scope of the impact on your local and regional economy
A BR+E process will help you measure how your business community is doing right now. This will give you a good look at the current situation and will also identify opportunities. The impact of closures, temporary or otherwise, has not impacted all sectors equally. While some businesses have been negatively impacted, others are busier than ever.
Armed with targeted survey questions, the BR+E interviews provide more accurate data than a simple web-based business survey. Having direct contact with businesses, allows you to both bolster your relationship with that business and achieve a deeper understanding of the opportunities and obstacles they are facing. Data collection as part of a BR+E initiative, allows your community to gain an understanding of the current state of the business community. This will allow you to take timely steps to address critical factors. The data collected can also be a useful tool in providing a benchmark to assess the impact of your recovery efforts.
- Identifying businesses that may require assistance or those that are ready to capitalize on emerging opportunities
A BR+E project can help identify businesses in crisis or those that are well-positioned to leverage emerging opportunities. Capturing business contact information as part of your data collection will provide you with an opportunity to follow up if there are any immediate challenges you could help resolve or immediate opportunities that would benefit this business. Identifying and addressing “red” flag and “green” flag items can provide both short- and long-term benefits to your community. For example, you might be able to prevent a business closure, help a business reopen, expand or pivot, or provide information on new programming that can help business adjust its operations and grow.
- Helping your community strategically plan for economic recovery
A BR+E exercise can help you collect the information you require to create a strategic framework for long-term economic recovery. Your community will be equipped with the information it needs to make strategic decisions that best support each sector, thereby enabling businesses to survive and thrive as your community enters a period of economic recovery.
In summary, a BR+E project can be a useful tool to guide the development of an economic recovery strategy or the formulation of a path to economic recovery.
This is the first blog post in a series on using BR+E to support resiliency and recovery in your own community. Check back frequently for further insight on how the BR+E program can help rural communities address the impacts of COVID-19.