About That Business Retention & Expansion Class

In January of 2018, IEDC offered their Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) class in Las Vegas. The BRE class is one of the four required courses in order to be eligible to sit for the certification exam. There were about 60 attendees at this particular class, which was nice because we were able to get to know everyone a little better in a smaller group setting.

The instructors were wonderful! They did a great job engaging the class and encouraging participation. In fact, we spent a lot of time having fellow attendees share with the class some of their BRE best practices that they have implemented in their communities.

The two-day course began with instructor introductions and a class overview, where they defined economic development and other helpful terms that we needed to be familiar with for the rest of the course. From there, we did a small group case study on a community that did not have an organized economic development strategy and was really struggling to attract and retain companies. This was a great project and every group had different methods of getting this community back on track.

After having lunch on our own, we discussed global factors that influence business retention and expansion policies, programs, strategies, and desired outcomes. Topics ranged from technology such as virtual reality, self-driving cars, and robots, to the impact of Amazon and the closing of Toys R Us stores. I thoroughly enjoyed this session of the class!

The next session covered workforce development. A vital part of an effective BRE program, the class spent a great amount of time discussing different workforce development programs that have worked in our respective communities.

The attendees were responsible for dinner on our own tonight.

Day two began with a discussion about working with various business retention stakeholders. We discussed to what degree we should ignite participation from political and business leadership during formal site visits and business walks. Also, the instructors suggested what reasonable goals economic developers should set for their BRE programs depending on the size of their community and economic development team. The biggest takeaway from this session was to do your homework before going on a site visit and DO NOT under any circumstances take a survey to work through with the business leaders. In other words, discuss their business with them – successes, challenges, and how to increase their participation in the community – rather than going through a 50-question document about their number of employees, scope of business, suppliers, etc.

This led to a discussion about BRE databases, where the instructors encouraged us to keep current records of the businesses in our communities. However, they also reiterated not to print out a list of the questions in the database and survey business leaders while on retention visits.

After having lunch on our own, we reconvened with a discussion on disaster preparedness. During this discussion we studied how communities have implemented recovery plans to deal with the impact of natural disasters.

Because we were running out of time, we briefly touched on marketing and branding our business retention and expansion programs and also utilizing social media for our BRE efforts.

The instructors summarized what the key takeaways were that they wanted attendees to keep in mind while working through their BRE programs. After two days full of extremely important information, we all received our course certificates.

So far, this has been my favorite IEDC class, mainly because I have a special place in my heart for BRE. The instructors also shared a plethora of BRE knowledge and did an incredible job of encouraging class discussion.

I’m excited for all those on their certification journey to experience this class. To those who are not pursuing their economic development certification: I strongly recommend attending this class for purely the amount of practical knowledge you will be flooded with.