What’s in a name? Changing the face of BRE

By Ryan Kelly –

During a BREI board meeting today, there was an interesting conversation that began regarding the use of the term “BRE.”  There is a trend with many economic development organizations and chambers that use business retention and expansion models, but they are increasingly moving away from the term “BRE.”

So we must ask the question that begins the foundation of what we do, “What is BRE?” Lorraine Boyd of the Province of Nova Scotia put it well.

BRE is one tool in the economic development tool box.   It along with other activities are used to engage with business communities in identifying and addressing situations in their area.  (Lorraine Boyd, BREP)

BRE is a tool in the toolbox of economic development organizations.  This tool helps to grow local businesses and reinforce communities.  It leverages relationships and local resources for maximum impact.

So, does changing the name of a program change what it is?  As William Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Boyd commented that new names are given to BRE activities such as BusinessNow and SmartBusiness.

No matter what name is given to a BRE program, it is essential that it follows the core components of BRE training and that it brings partners to the table to share in the burdens and successes of economic development.

BRE is a proven strategy for growing and retaining local businesses.  Let’s capitalize on the efforts and brand it how we need to market the program to the community.

Last Chance to Register for BREI’s Upcoming Fundamentals Course – Web Based Training

 

September 19-28, 2017

The Fundamentals Course in BREI’s training for economic developers and community professionals for basic business retention and expansion skills.  This course is focused on the volunteer visitor model, which is pertinent especially for small economic development organizations where volunteers are needed to assist with business surveys.  

The tools and skills obtained in this workshop will allow communities to better meet the needs of its local businesses.  Successful completion of the course will allow one to obtain the BRE Coordinator certification.

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Hartnell College – Industrial Refrigeration: Fundamentals & Introduction to Systems

A new training program is underway at Hartnell College East Campus — Industrial Refrigeration: Fundamentals of Refrigeration and Introduction to Refrigeration Systems. The program provides an introduction to industrial refrigeration using the Refrigerating Engineers & Technicians Association (RETA) Industrial Refrigeration Course 1 manual. When mature, the program plans to include a full array of skill topics to address the needs of the region’s employers: (1) Packaging / Production, (2) Technician, (3) Maintenance Mechanic, (4) Facility Refrigeration Technology, and (5) Management. The program, in part, grew out of a need expressed for refrigeration engineer and technicians to replace retiring staff, by industry leaders who participated in a Salinas Valley targeted business retention/expansion survey.

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BREI 2017 Awards Announced

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Greater Edmonton Economic Development Team

Business Retention & Expansion International is pleased to congratulate its 2017 award winners for excellent in BRE and economic development impact in their respective communities.

Outstanding Single Community
With a Population 20,000-50,000
City of Spruce Grove
Project: The Sweet Life Found

Outstanding Single Community
With a Population 50,000-100,000
San Antonio Economic
Development Foundation
Project: CaptureRX Expansion

Outstanding Multi Community
With a Population Over 100,000
City of Edmonton
Project: The Cornerstore Program

IMPACT Award
Creating Significant Change
City of Edmonton
Project: The Cornerstore Program

BRE Professional Recognition
Lorraine Boyd, BREP, Province of Nova Scotia
 

A webinar on the Impact Award winner, The Cornerstore Program, will take place soon so that all BREI members may learn about this excellent business support program in Edmonton.

It’s All About Community

By Ryan Kelly –

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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 http://onens.ca/commission-report/,1 also known as the Ivany Report.  The second, We Choose Now: A Playbook for Nova Scotians http://www.wechoosenow.ca/,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) http://novascotia.ca/programs/regional-enterprise-networks/.  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 http://www.halifaxpartnership.com/en/home/grow/smart-business/default.aspx .  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 (www.brei.org/certification-courses.html).  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.

Footnotes:
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 http://www.ibm.com/developerwor/rational/library/apr05/Hanford/index.html

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.