2022 Award Recipients


Business Retention and Expansion International is pleased to award four organizations with its Awards of Excellence for 2022. 

The BREI Awards of Excellence are given to economic development organizations, municipalities and/or states or provinces who have demonstrated an outstanding usage of business retention and expansion strategies and tactics for growing and sustaining small businesses.

Award winners for 2022 are as follows:

Outstanding Single Community with a Population under 20,000

Town of Morinville, Morinville, Alberta

Project: Revitalizing an Aging Asset into an Economic Engine

The Town of Morinville had an innovative approach for utilizing a replaced multi-decade old arena. Many small communities face similar issues with aging recreation and tourism infrastructure.

Uniquely, the Town sold the arena to private interests. Although sitting dormant due to the pandemic, it resold in 2021 and is now attracting thousands of visitors per year, creating a huge attraction audience for the Town, and generating over $6,000,000 in annual economic spin off. 

The new owners reenergized the site and increased neighborhood vibrancy, attracting offshoot events and activities that coincide with arena programming as well as public investment in adjacent destination area infrastructure. This is an economic contribution that likely would not have been evident given the likelihood of demolition of the arena as originally considered by Town Council. 

The Town markets the two arena properties in alignment with its master plans via social media and strategic bidding with two key pillars: 

1. Differentiation: multiple operational ice surfaces. 

2. Collaboration: regionally partner with other arenas on larger events. 

New ownership marketing is undertaken through a subsidiary, which develops, produces, licenses, and distributes its sport and entertainment content. Averaging 1,200 views per episode, high production value streaming of games, events, and tournaments using NHL modeled deliveries coupled with strategic presence on social media channels leverages and promotes its product in Morinville to audiences worldwide. 

Outstanding Single Community With a Population Over 50,000

Project: Strathcona County -Triage BR+E (Business Retention and Expansion) 

Strathcona County reviewed how it can best take action to support the plans and needs of its local businesses, to assist in planning economic development activities.  

Input from Strathcona County’s local business owners and managers was essential to understanding top priorities. This was completed through a survey and follow-up interviews featuring work from MDB Insights/ Deloitte. Of the 400 businesses surveyed, 176 were flagged as either red: 93 businesses (risk of closing, selling relocating or downsizing); or green: 83 businesses (expanding). 115 authorized a follow-up interview.  

Results informed a report on priority areas for economic development activities, such as policy and programs.  Action items will be shared with various departments. This project helped Strathcona County form and build relationships in the community.

Outstanding Multi Community With a Population 50,000 – 100,000

Huron County Economic Development Department, Goderich, Ontario

Project: Huron County Business Retention & Expansion Project

Due to the covid pandemic, surveys were to be completed by business respondents remotely, requiring extensive marketing and communication to ensure the purpose of the project was effectively conveyed, while providing sufficient instructions on how to complete and return the survey

A media release was issued by the Huron County Communications team to coincide with the onset of the surveying phase, providing marketing materials to various local media outlets, social media channels, radio stations, etc.

Due to COVID, the project adjusted to respond to volunteer and business owner concerns about face-to-face interviews. The BR&E team created mail out surveys and distributed them to 3,360 businesses across the county. Volunteers were trained to conduct phone calls to follow up on the mailed surveys. The 3,360 mailed surveys were followed up with volunteer calls encouraging businesses to complete the survey. Volunteers also explained the importance of the survey project and the impact it could have. A second round of surveys was sent 1-3 months after the first survey to try to increase the response rate. Feedback was provided to OMAFRA on changes that could be made to the survey to make it more impactful when delivered by mail.

Impact Award

Corporation of the City of North Bay, North Bay, Ontario

Project: Business Retention & Expansion Initiative

The BR+E program was introduced to the community though a marketing and communications plan that was developed using multiple avenues including radio and digital media. Digital geofencing provided targeted, location-based marketing used to reach a specific audience for BR+E engagement. A local media service provider was hired to design relevant messages that would be sent to smartphone users who entered a predetermined boundary or geographic area. In addition, a media launch was prepared to announce the program’s start, acknowledge community partners, and provide the public with background information on the program’s structure and value to local business retention and growth.

Ryan Kelly, BREI executive director, stated that, “we are very proud of the hard work and dedication of these economic developers with their demonstration of business retention and expansion excellence.  Supporting growth of community businesses is paramount to having a successful and vibrant workforce and economy.  We encourage all members to learn from these award recipients as they work to find new ideas and integrate them into existing programs”


Award recipients were recognized during the 2022 annual business meeting and received a plaque of recognition.


 [MM1]Did you mean to say small businesses?

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