It’s All About Community

By Ryan Kelly –

Roger Brooks, keynote speaker

“It’s all about relationships,” quotes Peter Kenyon, speaker at the 2017 BREI Annual Conference in Edmonton.  Kenyon detailed tremendous efforts of entrepreneurs in Australia that do not treat community as a client, rather a place where they are.

The conference featured fantastic speakers, including but not limited to international speaker Roger Brooks, CEO of RB International, and Clinton Senkow, COO of Influensive.

Brooks gave multiple case studies on businesses that think outside of the box and market themselves ‘differently’ than those around them.  Communities must showcase what separates them from other locals.  The adage “A Great Place to Live, Work, and Play” is overused and does nothing to sell a community.  Rather, brand yourself in a unique way in order to truly attract and retain business and citizens.

Senkow focused on millennial entrepreneurs and what drives them to a community.   He stated that millennials focus on environments that cater to business needs and environment as well as a place that is fun and inviting.

The conferenced ended with a keynote presentation by Doug Griffiths.  Author of 13 Ways to Kill Your Community, Doug takes community building and works backwards from a failing community and what caused it to occur.  These include 1) forget the water quality and quantity; 2) don’t attract businesses; 3) don’t engage youth; 4) deceive yourself; 5) shop elsewhere; 6) don’t paint; 7) don’t cooperate; 8) live in the past; 9) shut out your seniors; 10) reject everything new; 11) ignore outsiders; 12) grow complacent; 13) don’t take responsibility.

If you had to sum up the overall theme, it is community.  How can your community adapt and evolve to be unique, inviting, and a pro-business environment?  How can you revitalize your downtown core and create a multiplier effect with walking traffic?  How can you think differently and market your community more effectively?  This and more highlighted the excellent educational opportunities offered by BREI this year in Edmonton.

If you missed it, we are planning to have several of the speakers and attendees produce webinars throughout the next year on their presentations that will be available to all BREI members at no charge.

Business Retention Expansion in Nova Scotia, Canada

By: Lorraine Boyd, BREP –

The economic development landscape has changed in Nova Scotia, influenced by the release of two independent reports.  The first, Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians,1 also known as the Ivany Report.  The second, We Choose Now: A Playbook for Nova Scotians,2 lays out a plan for all sectors to work together to achieve the Ivany Report goals to create sustainable, long-term change and growth in Nova Scotia by citizens, business and government.

The Government has responded to these reports by developing a framework for private sector growth which describes how government is going to operate to enable the private sector to help achieve the Ivany Report goals.  The proposed framework states that Government and public support should focus on new start-ups and the retention and expansion of existing enterprises that hold measurable potential to increase employment and investment and that are aimed at export markets.1   The Government’s guiding principles indicate that its role is to be strategic; actions will be focused and decisions will be based on evidence and impact.

These goals, strategies and framework represent a distinct and definite shift in the economic development landscape in Nova Scotia.

In 2013 the Nova Scotia government moved to create the Regional Enterprise Networks (RENs).  The RENs are a provincial government initiative with the mandate to guide and navigate regional economic development, while providing support to business through collaboration with First Nations, municipal and provincial governments, and, businesses working together with a regional focus.

The RENs have three core activities they are mandated to carry out.  One of these core activities is to develop and implement a Business Retention and Expansion program (BR&E)  All RENs have made progress in implementing a BR&E initiative in their region.  And now all share the common brand of Business Now.   This unified brand is an important component of their regional strategies to address the impacts of local and regional economic conditions; and also report on business climate conditions. There will no doubt be refinements and adjustments over time ensuring that they keep their business focus as sharp as possible.

The Business Now program is maturing under the guidance and oversight of the Department of Municipal Affairs and mentorship from Halifax Partnership’s SmartBusiness team .  Both the Department and the Partnership have BREI certified staff that mentor the RENs in program development and implementation, and identify and deliver BR&E training opportunities.  The SmartBusiness program is an internationally recognized and award winning model which has been replicated in various jurisdictions since 2004 and this is one reason why Municipal Affairs is accessing this local expertise to create a trained, informed and supportive environment for the RENs to be successful in rolling out their Business Now program.

As we know a BR&E visitation program is a team effort focused on understanding and meeting the needs of local businesses.  The BR&E methodology captures the essence of what the Nova Scotia government felt needed to happen in Nova Scotia.  The Government wants relationships built between businesses and service providers that can identify opportunities or barriers to growth and then navigate the business to programs and service providers that meet their need.  A well run BR&E program fits the bill.

The RENs are building their partner networks to provide seamless navigation in matching services to businesses’ needs, outcomes are being monitored and will be analyzed to determine future actions for businesses or regional issues.

BR&E programs can begin to see results very quickly, especially in service delivery to businesses.  However, the benefits arising from gathering business intelligence can take longer, perhaps a year to 18 months after the first business visit.  A good rule of thumb is ‘once you survey at least 90 businesses in your region, you will have captured enough data to draw from for a good reflection of your community, anything over and above that number generally does not drastically change your results.’3

Since the inception of BR&E in the 1970s, two broad approaches to implementing a program have emerged.  These two approaches have been labeled “traditional” and “continuous” (Kraybill 1999).4 Today, these types of programs, as well as variations on each type, are in operation throughout the United States and Canada.

While the goals of BR&E programs can vary, they all have common elements:

·      Leadership by economic development organizations and the community

A shared belief by local economic development professionals that it is easier and less expensive to retain existing businesses that it is to lure new businesses (the same thing is true for business owners

·      Partner organizations are important to success

·      Interview process and questionnaire

Data analysis and interpretation skills

·      Regular reports documenting activities and progress

·      Measures to assess program success

In addition, it is widely known that the benefits of implementing a BR&E are:

·      It is easier and less expensive to retain existing businesses than it is to lure new businesses

·      Keeping the business base is good for development and growth of smaller service firms

·      Existing businesses are best positioned locally to replace job losses due to retirements, business closings, and product life cycles ending.

·      An added benefit for BR&E is that existing businesses are ambassadors for industry recruitment.

The BR&E model delivered in Nova Scotia is the “continuous” model.  The long-term success of the continuous model in Nova Scotia is due to the use of paid economic development staff, and other administrative and technical supports provided through this model.  The business community enjoy a trusted systematic process which focuses on relationship development within a sound governance framework relating to data collection and privacy of information.  The continuous model is also ‘dynamic’ and can respond to external events and changing conditions.

One of the strengths of the Nova Scotia BR&E program has been the governance framework on which the program has been implemented.  The structured approach Nova Scotia has adopted helps with buy-in, development and consistency of the program.  It should be noted that as programs progress, they require a linkage mechanism that ensures alignment between business strategy and direction, and the path to outcomes over the life of the program.  This linkage program can help a BR&E program sustain its potential and deliver its promised value.  To achieve the necessary linkages, oversight and control a program must develop and institute an effective governance framework.3

The economic development playing field in Nova Scotia is occupied by several agencies with diverse mandates, all of whom are united by the goal of promoting the economic well-being of our communities and the province as a whole.  Some of these stakeholders have emerged to support the benefits of a sustainable province-wide BR&E program and have generated unique partnerships with the RENs.  As the initiative continues to mature, other partners are being engaged to provide support services in various ways to improve the effectiveness of the network.

Another important component of the Business Now initiative is the continual training and educational opportunities provided to participants.  Municipal Affairs in partnership with Business Retention and Expansion International (BREI) is able to offer BREI continuing education workshops designed and hosted by BREI certified trainers (  In addition, operational and other types of training are offered by Municipal Affairs and Halifax Partnership throughout the year.

My final observation is that it is important for everyone to understand the basic philosophy underlying a BR&E program – communities benefit far more by working together to support the health of existing local businesses, than to attract new businesses from elsewhere.

OneNS Coalition1;  We Choose Now2;  Hank Cothran, Instructor, BREI training, Halifax 20083;  Kraybill, D. 1995. Retention and Expansion First. Ohio’s Challenge 84;  Louisiana Community Network, Business Retention & Expansion, 2012;  Case Study: Business Retention and Expansion Programs – Winnipeg, Canada:  MillerDickinsonBlais, March 31, 2013;  Michael F. Hanford (November 13, 2007). Defining program governance and structure. Article retrieved February 3, 2011 from

BREI Adds 22 New BRE Coordinators

By: Ryan Kelly –

Just in the past several months, Business Retention Expansion International has added 22 new BRE Coordinators through its popular Fundamentals courses.  These courses, all of which were taught in the online format on the continuous model, teach economic developers the skills needed to excel in their respective positions.  The organization has enjoyed an increase in both membership and certification in the past year.

13 Tips on Being a Better Economic Development Professional

By:  Eric Canada –

~~~What email address do you list in LinkedIn? I see 4 variations among economic developers. Company website, no email; company email only; personal email address only; or, no contact info. What you do probably goes to the heart of how you think of LinkedIn. It is a powerful connecting resource for the business community. Make sure you make yourself available. Share all your contact info.

~~~Share… it is OK to brag about your successes. Have a video, a marketing piece, a twitter hashtag that is working for you? Share a success story so we can broadcast it to the profession. We learn best from the experience of others. It is part of being a leader. Send your success story to us at

~~~Manufacturing job opportunities are underexposed… Everyone agrees, school kids and their parents are not aware of the wealth of great job opportunities in manufacturing right in the community.  Check out how the Greater Clinton EDC used a group of middle schoolers to tell a powerful story of manufacturing job opportunity in their region: Made in the Clinton Region video. Check it out …

~~~Just spotted… interesting new award categories for business recognition: Champion of Workforce Development. Recognize companies using innovative practices for recruiting, hiring, training and retaining employees. Source: Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development, MI.

~~~What is your organization’s role… on any given issue? Is it ‘rowing,’ ‘steering,’ or cheering’?” Knowing your strengths is an important first step. Step two, apply your strengths and your organization will amass a record of accomplishment. Finally, don’t be afraid of the passing lane. If something needs to be done and no one is driving the issue, you don’t need anyone’s permission to press ahead. What’s the old saying, “Ask forgiveness, not permission.

~~~Run with it… Valentine’s Day is another opportunity to tell employers how much your organization appreciates them. Why wait? Post an open letter to employers on your website home page. Write a letter to the editor. Send an e-blast calling out employers for their jobs, economic impact, philanthropy, and community engagement. Then, mark your calendar for next year and go big. Plan an event or awards program to recognize employers to coincide with Valentine’s Day Wednesday, February 14, 2018.

~~~ “Ability… is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. ” Lou Holtz

~~~ “Always… assign the responsibility for follow-through (on a great idea) to the person who had the idea.” Leverage personal motivation, test ability, and benefit from the boost in confidence(attitude). A clear assignment of responsibility is a critical element of leadership. Quote Source: Roy Williams, Monday Morning Memo Note: Highly recommended reading!

~~~Measuring success… Check out Chapter 10 in Martin Seligman’s book Flourish. Seligman uses sound research to break from our traditional measures of success in economic development to focus on measures of wealth and well being he calls the “New Prosperity”. With the continued growth of the Freelance Economy (57 million workers in the US and growing), it may be worth your time to understand Seligman’s work.

~~~Outside the box… this qualifies: A pop-up mall constructed out of refitted shipping containers. The containers provide affordable and flexible leases for lifestyle brands, cafes, restaurants and galleries to trade and succeed in the heart of London’s Shoreditch district. By fusing the concepts of modern street food and placing local and global brands side by side a unique shopping and dining destination emerged.

~~~WARNING!… Highly Effective Gmail Phishing Technique Being Exploited. The phishing technique steals login credentials that have a wide impact, even on experienced users. Consider logging into Google and changing your password, adding two-step verification if you don’t have that yet. What you need to know! Source Posted earlier via @EDMarketingPro

~~~More aggressive phishing strategies… The bad guys are pressing hard to access more computers to gain access to networks, email lists, etc. Supposed unpaid invoices and undelivered packages are just two examples. Have you had the TALK with your staff about safe emailing? Now is the time.

~~~Would you apply… if you knew the names of job applicants for an CEO position in economic development would be published? The newspaper editor in Amarillo, TX argues the public has a right to know “because of the importance the position has in guiding an organization with a multimillion-dollar budget funded largely by sales tax revenue.” The publisher wanted to publish the names of applicants midstream during the selection process. The Texas Attorney General sided with the publisher’s FOIA request in a decision dated February 3rd, after the selection process concluded. Feb 11th, a month after the new CEO was announced, the editor published the list of applicants.

Based on comments from a few recruiters, there are a few issues:

Public is fine if all candidates know this when they submit. But, you cannot change the rules in the middle of the process.

Good, qualified candidates will not risk a good, secure position to look at an opportunity if their name will be published as a candidate.

Publishing the list at the end of the process only hurts those individuals who were blindsided by the late freedom of information request.