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?


BREI Issues 2021 Awards of Excellence

Business Retention and Expansion International awarded two distinguished communities with its 2021 Awards of Excellence for high-quality BRE programs intended to grow and retain their local businesses.

The City of Dardenne Prairie recently received the Community Impact award for a Single Community with a Population under 20,000 for its project, “Retention Through Relocation.” Dardenne Prairie is a municipality of approximately 14,000 residents in Western St. Charles County, MO. The community features a very high median income, high housing values, access to good schools and high-quality community amenities.

With partners such as Vital Performance, Dialed Scooters & BMX, Brite Cleaners, and Dos Lagos Assets, Inc., The City of Dardenne Prairie is successfully building a community data set for unused or underutilized sites that will serve as alternatives for businesses seeking to relocate, close or expand. The project maintains one point-of-contact who coordinates with landlords, agent partners, and community businesses.

Retention Through Relocation has successfully gained the trust of many Dardenne Prairie businesses as a problem-solving resource for retention and expansion. The organization measures success by the number of businesses retained or working to find solutions within the community. In addition, they focus on tangible evidence such as follow-up meetings between landlords, City staff, and business owners. Significant effort is being expended to identify and categorize possible sites for relocation for effected businesses, along with the network of contacts for each site.

Natchez, Inc. Economic Development recently received the top award from Business Retention & Expansion International, the Impact Award, for its project “Shift South.” Natchez, Mississippi is the oldest settlement along the Mississippi River, making it an attraction for people around the world.

Natchez, Inc., in partnership with the City of Natchez; Visit Natchez; Natchez NOW; and Entergy, MS, created the Shift South project as an effort designed to relocate remote workers around the world to Natchez, MS. Shift South incentivizes the program by providing relocation reimbursements and monthly stipends for up to a year.

Social media campaigns launched the success of Shift South, leading to five applications with five more under review. The City of Natchez, along with other partners, have committed significant financial resources for this program, which in turn is stimulating the economy through home sales and commercial spending. More specifically, City of Natchez dedicated $180,000 over a three-year period to attract thirty remote workers. Natchez, Inc. is seeing a growing number of inquiries and approved applicants, in hopes of bringing in ninety remote workers total to Natchez, Mississippi. 

Ryan Kelly, Executive Director of Business Retention and Expansion International (BREI), states “We are very proud of Natchez, Inc. and the City of Dardenne Prairie for their work to grow and retain local businesses.  Anytime our members can apply BRE strategies to retain and support local businesses is appreciated, but especially considering the shutdown related to COVID and the work that has taken place to support these businesses through the post-COVID world, it makes their work all the more important.”

Learn more about these awards at http://www.brei.org.

BREI Finds Success with Pivot to New Methods and Technologies

As long-time BREI members may have noticed, we have operated differently in 2020.  Like most organizations across the globe, BREI has felt the weight of COVID-19 and embraced the opportunities that technological advances have created.  New tools including Basecamp and Zoom have been heavily utilized by BREI, transitioning a largely in-person organization into one that is relying much more on digital communication and connection.  

We are happy to report that as a result of this pivot, BREI experienced a very positive year in 2020.  Our membership actually increased by about 8%, the number of participants in our Fundamentals Courses increased by 50%, and we offered multiple continuing education sessions to a more diverse group of members.  Financially, BREI experienced a positive year as well as a result of these new trainings and reduced expenses.  Lastly, BREI entered into several new partnerships with organizations from the US, Canada and Great Britain to expand its footprint and effective outreach across the globe.

Overall, BREI is poised to enter 2021 a stronger and better equipped organization due to the hard work and difficult decisions of its board of directors, members and staff.  We will continue to provide quality business retention and expansion training, news and education to members in a manner by which would be most effective and accessible.  

Thank you for your continued membership and support of BREI!

2020 BREI Award Recipients

Business Retention and Expansion International (BREI) presents awards each year to deserving members for excellence in their pursuit of growing and retaining local businesses and industry.  These “Awards of Excellence” are given during the BREI Annual Meeting, which provides an opportunity for peers from throughout the world to hear about the projects and recognize this achievement.

Three awards were presented to deserving programs in 2020.  The 2020 award recipients and their projects are as follows:


Hancock County Port & Harbor Commission receives the Community Impact award for a Single Community with a Population from 20,000 to 50,000 for its project, “Hancock County Aerospace Strategy Initiative.”   

Hancock County is located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast on the western side of the state. Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission owns and operates Port Bienville Industrial Park in the lower part of the County which houses a maritime Port and short line railroad, home to 14 companies. HCPHC also owns and operates the Stennis International Airport & Airpark in the Northern area of the County, which is home to 12 companies.

The development of a strategy began in 2017 when HCPHC used a U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to hire a consulting firm who worked to develop the Aviation and Aerospace Optimization Plan.

As a result of the master planning efforts, HCHPC can now deliver tangible capital improvement projects and site development via marketing materials to relevant parties. This includes least cost development scenarios to mitigate speed to market, environmental and budget variables, but it also prioritized real investments at Stennis International Airport (KHSA) with projects in various stages of completion, including: Announcement of PRCC Aviation & Aerospace Workforce Academy; Construction of 12,000 SF Corporate Hangar; Construction of 26,000 SF Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Hangar; Design of multi-user parallel 5,000 foot runway; Formal application for licensure to the FAA for use of KHSA as a commercial spaceport; Design of 20-Acre Technology Park adjacent to Airport terminal; Part 141 & Part 61 Flight School agreement.

Through implementation of this strategy, existing industry has shown investment through recent announcements, including Relativity Space with 200 new jobs and more than $65 million in capital investment and Lockheed Martin Space Systems with 30 new jobs and $30 million in capital investment


Dufferin Economic Development receives the Community Impact award for a Multi-Community with a Population from 50,000 to 100,000 for its project, “Food for Thought.”

Located approximately 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of Toronto and home to over 61,000 residents, Dufferin County is known for its agriculture, arts, charming settlements, rolling hills, beautiful landscape (includes some Niagara Escarpment), and outdoor recreation.

Dufferin County recognized that the Agriculture and Food Sector is a powerful economic generator for their region during a time of strong population growth.  The goal of this project was to engage Dufferin County’s Agriculture and Food business community in an effort to gain valuable insight around the sector’s immediate and future needs, and determine how to support positive change in an effort to enhance the business environment as it pertains to agriculture and food in Dufferin County. This project resulted in a growing collaboration from a wide variety of community groups and businesses working together.


Norfolk Department of Economic Development receives the Community Impact award for a Multi Community with a Population Over 100,000 for its project “COVID-19 Business Retention and Recovery Campaign.”

Norfolk is part of the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metropolitan area, also called the “Hampton Roads” region, in the State of Virginia in the United States. Norfolk, with a population of approximately 245K, is at the heart of the Hampton Roads community, a place 1.7 million people call home.

The Norfolk Department of Economic Development, in partnership with the Hampton Roads Alliance’s Regional Business Recovery Task Force, launched the Business Retention and Recovery campaign as a multifaceted effort designed to position Norfolk for a successful recovery from the COVID-19 disaster. Project components included: a large-scale outreach campaign primarily to small businesses, the immediate creation of the Norfolk Economic Disaster Assistance Loan & Grant products, an integrated marketing communications effort, coupled with the long-term support of businesses identified as “at-risk” for closure.

The Outreach team was able to identify 210 “at-risk” businesses to be monitored and extensively supported with wrap-around services and enhanced resources for a 12-to-18 month period, with a tentative conclusion date of June 2021. The campaign was an incredibly robust effort resulting in over 1,000 businesses directly engaged, more than 350 businesses surveyed, and the distribution of over $300K in grants and loans, before locally administered CARES Act funding became available.


Ryan Kelly, executive director of BREI states, “We are very proud of our three 2020 award recipients for their dedication and hard work at growing and preserving local business.  Their work demonstrates the professionalism and exceptional performance that we have grown to enjoy in our economic developers, and I firmly believe that these projects will have lasting impact in their individual communities.”

For more information on Business Retention and Expansion International, visit http://www.brei.org.

2019 BREI Award Recipients

Each year, BREI has the pleasure of recognizing select agencies and organizations with Awards of Excellence.  These are due to exceptional efforts in the field of business retention and expansion with respect to local projects to retain and grow local business.  The 2019 award winners announced in Jackson, Mississippi are as follows:

Outstanding Single Community with a Population Under 20,000
Athens Economic Development Corporation
Project:  Biomerics, FMI

Outstanding Single Community with a Population Between 20,000 – 50,000
Powhatan County
Project:  BR&E Program Re-launch

Outstanding Multi – Community with a Population Between 50,000 – 100,000
The Corporation of the County of Wellington
Project: Invest Well Community Improvement Programme (CIP)

Outstanding Multi – Community With A Population Over 100,000
The Corporation of the County of Simcoe
Project: Simcoe, Grey & Bruce Counties Agriculture & Agri-For Value Chain BRE Study

Outstanding State / Province Award
Mississippi Development Authority
Project: Continental Tire, Clinton, MS

Impact Award
Newfoundland & Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs
Peer Mentoring Program: Mastermind and Boost

Click here to learn more about these outstanding programs.