We're asking

economic development

and allied professionals across North America five standard questions about

business retention and expansion

. Check in to

BRE

.Guru regularly to see what these industry leaders have to say about this essential element of

economic development

.
Perry Ursem
Perry Ursem is the Vice President of Business Retention and Expansion for the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance (LVGEA). Before taking on that regional role, Perry headed up business development for the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). Perry has spent most of his professional career in the private sector and routinely applies many of these concepts to his work in economic development.
What is your definition of business retention and expansion?
"Connecting with and providing valuable information and contacts to existing businesses within our region for ensuring their success and longevity as a key employer in the community."
What ultimately constitutes success in business retention and expansion?
"Ongoing communication with businesses through an establishment of trust.  Measurable results would include job creation and capital investment."
What is your biggest challenge in business retention and expansion?
"Making contact with a new business not familiar with BR&E without a “warm” referral introduction.  The misperception that we are trying to sell them something, instead being an advocate and a third party no-cost resource provider for their benefit."
What is your greatest opportunity in business retention and expansion?
"Developing new industry opportunities for the region that have not currently been realized or established."
What single piece of advice would you give others about achieving success in business retention and expansion?
"Always be inquisitive when meeting business leadership for the first time.  Spend the time to get to know them to warm their interest in becoming a resource provider through BR&E."
Stephen Morris, Ec.D.
Stephen Morris is an Economic Development Specialist and Team Lead Member for Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). Stephen is a skilled, eclectic economic developer and long time manager of OMAFRA's rurally-based BR+E program. Dozens of rural communities across the province have worked with Stephen to develop and implement their local business retention programs. He is actively involved in all facets of this process--from development of methodologies & protocols to orientation & training to monitoring & course correction. He also helps rural communities extrapolate intelligence from their program and develop relevant programs, policies and strategies. We asked Stephen for his unique take on business retention and expansion.
What is your definition of business retention and expansion?
"I define business retention and expansion as a structured action-oriented and community-based approach to both business and economic development."
What ultimately constitutes success in business retention and expansion?
"In the short term, success in business retention and expansion builds and improves relations with existing businesses, builds capacity within the community and strengthens relationships between organizations and lets existing businesses know how much they are valued in the community. In the long term, success in business retention and expansion, increases the competitiveness of existing businesses and enables business development, investment and job creation."
What is your biggest challenge in business retention and expansion?
"I think one of the biggest challenges in business retention and expansion is that it is not seen on the same level of importance as entrepreneurship or business attraction. However, it is the existing businesses that create the vast majority of jobs. The opportunity is having the right performance measures and communicating them effectively to local leaders."
What is your greatest opportunity in business retention and expansion?
"Business retention and expansion is a key building block of any economic development strategy. The greatest opportunity I see is using economic analysis information to effectively target sectors and businesses to visit."
What single piece of advice would you give others about achieving success in business retention and expansion?
"Be clear on your objectives for your BRE project, and then spend a lot of time planning and preparing."
Dale Wheeldon
Dale Wheeldon is a seasoned economic developer from British Columbia who wears many hats. He is the President/CEO of the British Columbia Economic Development Association (BCEDA). That organization has a large and active roster of community members and stakeholders. Dale also spends time on consulting work with resource limited communities throughout the province on business retention/expansion, marketing and much more. He routinely provides business retention and expansion training for the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and other membership organizations throughout North America. Dale was also an active participant in Alberta's disaster mitigation work after their 2013 floods near Calgary.
What is your definition of business retention and expansion?
"BRE is an economic development tool designed to identify actions to address issues and challenges and to capitalizing on the opportunities offered by businesses already in your community. BRE focuses on the assets that you do have rather than on ones that someone else has."
What ultimately constitutes success in business retention and expansion?
"A strong working relationship between local/regional governments and the business community that leads towards the creation and retention of jobs, expansion of existing assets (business) and the attraction of new complimentary businesses."
What is your biggest challenge in business retention and expansion?
"Making local politicians understand the value of spending time with businesses that have already invested in your community."
What is your greatest opportunity in business retention and expansion?
"Well for me personally it is helping others “justify” the value of BRE. For a community the greatest opportunity is to build the relationship and respect between local government and local existing businesses thereby identifying and removing barriers to economic growth."
What single piece of advice would you give others about achieving success in business retention and expansion?
"Do not make it just about a data gathering exercise. It is about building a relationship and developing trust. Take the information you learn and put it in to action."
Marty Vanags, President-Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership
Marty Vanags is a true economic development veteran. He's held key posts in communities like Bloomington-Normal, IL and Indianapolis IN. Marty recently left Indiana to head up a new organization and ambitious regional effort in Saratoga County, NY. The common denominator of all of Marty's experience is a strong and consistent focus on business retention and expansion. We are happy to offer Marty's insight into this field.
What is your definition of business retention and expansion?
"Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) as a program of activity conducted by economic development professionals and others is best defined by describing what it isn’t. BRE should not be defined as a “project” or “program” be the economic development professional. Rather is should be viewed much like a “campaign”. This campaign requires multiple buy-in and agreement from a wide variety of stakeholders, service providers and elected officials in order for it to be successful. BRE as campaign will result in great results and it will widen the collaborative opportunities for many organizations and groups who claim economic development as part of their mission. From workforce organizations, to community colleges, training schools, unions, community development organizations, all should be involved in the BRE campaign. Yes, BRE is an opportunity to visit businesses and get their opinion and develop insight into their activities, find and help those businesses overcome obstacles to being more successful, and create new relationships, and yes, it’s an opportunity to find trends among similar types of businesses and create data that can’t be found online or other common sources. Yes, it is an opportunity to provide greater trust and clarity into your organizational goals with the companies and business owners you are visiting which may result in a more successful funding for your organization."
What ultimately constitutes success in business retention and expansion?
"Success in any BRE program has some commonly thought of goals and success metrics such as jobs retained or new jobs added as a result of work done through the efforts of the BRE campaign. One must be careful to reconcile the goals of the organization or community’s goals as defined in an economic development master plan along with the commonly held metrics. However ultimate success is when the BRE program and campaign becomes a seamless part of the economic development “practice”. It is successful when multiple organization are calling companies and referring issues and problems to each other without regard to who gets credit. It is successful when the campaign results in a higher degree of trust among organizations within the community. Economic Development credit and success is collaborative and requires credit to spread among many organizations."
What is your biggest challenge in business retention and expansion?
"In any community I have worked, the biggest challenge is to get local community organizations and service providers to trust one another, work within the system and develop a long-term approach to the system. Another challenge is to help other service providers that you have incorporated into the campaign and system to use it diligently and in a disciplined way. This requires great leadership and enthusiasm. A final challenge is build enough community awareness and acknowledgment by the business community that this is a “real” effort and that no one is trying to pry private information from them. Many visits I have been on started with a disbelief that someone was actually here to listen and not try to sell them something. This can be overcome with a strong marketing and awareness campaign."
What is your greatest opportunity in business retention and expansion?
"I have often remarked BRE is the foundation for economic development in any community or region. It is what every other program and activity should be built from. One cannot undertake a real and sustainable recruitment and attraction program if one does not first develop their BRE campaign. How can one ask a company to join the other companies and businesses in one’s region if they have no knowledge of the needs, desires, challenges and opportunities facing existing business? A community or region must have “asking rights” to invite a company to join the others in ones’ region or community. This only comes with a rich, deep and instinctive knowledge of one’s businesses, their trends, and the resultant culture this creates. This can only be done through a legitimate campaign of BRE. The results and payoff will be tenfold. A foundational and strong BRE campaign will result in:
  • Stronger ties and relationships with the business community in your community beyond the nominal and requisite handshake and nod at the last Chamber reception. You become a confidant and problem solver that is seen with great esteem in the eyes of the businesses with which one has interacted.
  • Stronger ties and relationships resulting from the new, expanded and increased relationships one has with the service providers and economic development collaboration partners in the community or region. The ability to assist those organizations and partners in reaching their service goals will give them more incentive to participate.
  • More opportunities to “monetize” the relationship one has with those business that have assisted or even those that have not. Their recognition that your organization is leading a real effort to help local businesses grow and expand will be recognized through increased funding when the time comes.
  • Valuable data and information that one cannot find in census sources, or commercial sources. The views, opinions and real-time data being provided by company and business owners to a BRE data gatherer cannot be found anywhere and can provide trending data for the region.
"
What single piece of advice would you give others about achieving success in business retention and expansion?
"Make business retention and expansion the foundation and driver of your economic development strategy. All efforts should emanate from your existing business customers."
Greater Akron Chamber
We are happy to spotlight our friends at the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce for this installment of BREBytes. Contributors Sheri Shields, Gregg Cramer and Rick Rebadow are no strangers to successful and sustainable business retention and expansion. The Greater Akron Chamber has actively managed an ambitious regional initiative for over a decade. On average, they are visiting with over 500 value-added firms each year. These visits provide impetus for the development of relevant programs, policies and strategies in this region of Ohio. The program also "connects the dots" to ensure that pending company and industry needs are understood and met.
What is your definition of business retention and expansion?
"Proactively reaching out to area businesses to uncover investment opportunities and/or mitigate obstacles that prevent them from being competitive in their respective markets."
What ultimately constitutes success in business retention and expansion?
"Establishing and maintaining an ongoing dialogue/relationship and positive impression; resulting in company follow-up with the Greater Akron Chamber."
What is your biggest challenge in business retention and expansion?
"Identifying and securing a meeting with the appropriate decision maker."
What is your greatest opportunity in business retention and expansion?
"Showing measurable value to both our members and the community at large."
What single piece of advice would you give others about achieving success in business retention and expansion?
"It is all about due diligence and commitment; the organization must develop and execute a workable plan with local economic development partners."
Delynn Fielding
Mr. Delynn Fielding hails from the State of Utah. He has a wealth of varied experience in business retention and expansion — first as a local practitioner—then as a regional manager—and finally as a state coordinator for their ambitious BEAR initiative. Delynn recently retired from his state coordinator position. He is now consulting with local communities and regions across Utah on their existing industries program. We’re happy to feature Delynn's unique, no nonsense perspective on business retention and expansion.
What is your definition of business retention and expansion?
"Bringing to local businesses all existing available resources to strengthen and grow the company."
What ultimately constitutes success in business retention and expansion?
"Measurable and reportable growth and expansion of specific individual companies."
What is your biggest challenge in business retention and expansion?
"Effective buy-in from all local business resources."
What is your greatest opportunity in business retention and expansion?
"Unification of business community and business resources towards specific community and political goals and improvements for the area."
What single piece of advice would you give others about achieving success in business retention and expansion?
"Make sure "everyone gets smoke" everyone takes credit for the results of whole. Structure the results so each organization can count them for their 'brownie points' This is the essence and accounting of win-win. This helps tie in all the partners."

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