Buisness Retention and Expansion

More and more, Convergent is seeing that effective BRE makes EDO strategic plans more fundable for our clients. Our friends at Creative EDC wrote this insightful piece on the role BRE plays in economic development, including several examples of how to incorporate BRE programs and identifying new trends in BRE.

Why would you overlook 70% of your prospects?

Economic Development Organizations (EDOs) do it every day. They pass by 70% of their prospects, 70% of job creation potential, and 70% of new investment potential. If your EDO does not have a proactive Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program, you are missing opportunities.

As former local economic developers, we know that a community will see four-to-five expansions for every one new company location. Furthermore, it is less expensive to provide retention and expansion service sthan external marketing for recruitment. If you are looking for ways to maximize the return on your limited EDO budget, invest in BRE.

Most BRE programs have similar core elements and are expanded with community-specific elements. Core elements include visitation, retention/expansion support, advocacy, and communications. Community-specific elements could be programs such as financial assistance, business planning, technical assistance, or programs related to workforce development issues. Additionally, some of the newer trends in BRE include using predictive modeling to identify expansion prospects;use of social media such as LinkedIn to identify connections between companies; and new software programs for tracking and analyzing BRE information.

One of the core elements we are most often asked about are visitation programs and how to effectively implement them. There are advantages and disadvantages to staff-led and volunteer-led visitation programs. Staff-led programs provide for consistency and relationship building. Volunteer programs allow more companies to be visited in a shorter amount of time. If your EDO uses volunteers, make sure to provide volunteer training and establish a follow up protocol.

The key to a successful BRE program is follow up. There are software programs that help with tracking BRE information and follow up. Before you start a BRE program, design your follow up methodology, whether it is a software program or a paper file. The quickest way to fail is to ask a company what their concerns are and then do nothing about them.