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

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

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.


By Ryan Kelly –

Such a simple question is a helpful one for us to ask.

With all of the organizations that exist to support industry and economic development, why chose BREI for membership and involvement?

The answer is in the focus.  Business Retention & Expansion International is laser-focused on BRE.  We provide two certifications designed to provide grass-roots training for implementing a BRE program, complete with survey tools and methodologies for implementing these tools.  We provide a huge number of BRE-specific resources and a wealth of institutional and professional knowledge on the subject.

BREI is not an economic development association that does everything plus BRE.  We ONLY do BRE, and we go in-depth with the offerings that we provide.

You will not find this anywhere else but with BREI.

You must know who you are to be successful, and we have and will continue to be the world leader in business retention and expansion training and education.  We are continuing to find new ways to education and empower our members, and we are continuing to learn the latest and greatest strategies for accomplishing the needs of a changing and evolving world economy with emphasis on the nuances of the local environment.

We believe in what we do, and we believe in our membership.  Do you know someone that is not yet a member of BREI?  Be sure to recommend them to join and earn your $50 credit to use for membership or educational activities.  They can join online by clicking here.