It is a well-known fact backed up by industry data that 80% of all new jobs come from existing companies. In 2017 JobsOhio, the private sector economic development organization in Ohio reported that 83% of its jobs came from companies already in the state. In economic development we spend much of our time trying to attract new businesses to our community. There is a pay-off to those attraction efforts, but more often than not, a good Business Retention and Expansion program (BR&E) can have even greater dividends than an attraction program.
The Montrose Group, an economic development consulting firm based in Columbus Ohio has managed these programs at the community and state level. The Montrose (BR&E) Program helps economic development officials assist their existing companies expand by:
- Partnering with local and regional stakeholders to develop an annual list of targeted companies based on defined company factors, including, market growth, hiring trends, and state or regional targeting.
- Coordinating with local government representatives, state or regional partners, and workforce development partners to plan visits and develop outcomes for existing industries to succeed.
- Meeting with local company executives to gather input on the issues they face and addressing their issues to help these companies grow in the region.
- Facilitate conversations with decision makers to aid a company’s issues related to access to capital, addressing regulatory issues, better transportation access, and other business and policy issues.
- Adequately funding operations, through investment by private and public sector economic development partners, annually to provide proper funding of a BR&E program to ensure that proper staffing and promotion is available.
- Investing in BR&E software and surveys to gather data from local companies.
Montrose Business Retention & Expansion Campaign
- Adequate BR&E staff: economic development organizations must dedicate public and private resources to an ongoing BR&E campaign. The job of assisting existing industry is a daily task that must be coordinated across multiple organizations in a community. Without dedicated BR&E staff, issues that businesses face to do not get addressed and opportunities for investment may be missed.
- Company targets: no matter how big or small, a community needs to develop its list of targeted companies that it wants to visit on an annual basis. This list can change from year-to-year but should remain relatively constant to track the trends of these companies and these sectors. Economic development staff should build relationships with these companies to give them comfort in reaching out when an issue arises.
- Survey tool and software: a community should develop a common survey tool that its staff, volunteers and local representatives can use when visiting companies. These individuals should be trained on how to use the tool and not to read from a script but to get the necessary information at each visit. The common survey tool can be used to gather data about each company and about industry sectors. Public policy can often be formulated based on the common survey. The survey data should be inputted into BR&E or CRM software. This allows for reliability and consistency of information as well as checking the trends and needs of companies.
- Local executive briefings: A BR&E program is only as good as the information gathered in briefings with company executives. Once companies are targeted a calendar should be developed for the visits, scheduled should be coordinated with local representatives, partners and volunteers, and then visits should be scheduled. A BR&E visit training should be held before the visit, even for veterans. The visits should seek out the information in the common survey tool, but not follow a script as these visits should be a conversation.
- Solving company challenges. Be it regulatory, incentives, workforce or utilities, companies face challenges that economic development professionals and their partners can address. The local executive briefings should be followed by calls and emails and other communication to ensure that challenges identified in those meetings are addressed and fixed. The biggest downfall of any BR&E program is a lack of follow through leaving companies having to address their challenges on their own.