Defining Success in Business Retention & Expansion

Economic development organizations track a wide range of metrics from leads to BRE visits to business start-ups and beyond. However, does the time invested in measuring specific data points pay off in future success? An article in Community Development authored by Dr. Jonathan Morgan, Associate Professor of Public Administration and Government at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and Crystal Morphis, CEO of Creative Economic Development Consulting, reviewed success factors in BRE programs.

We researched thirteen BRE performance measures that were reported in an IEDC metrics survey. We found that the top BRE metrics reported by EDOs are:

  • Business expanded, assisted, and retained
  • Jobs retained
  • Amount of financing provided
  • Ratings of the local business climate
  • Retention and growth of at-risk business

EDOs that collect meaningful data and information from existing businesses and systematically use the data to improve the BRE program are more successful. This requires high-quality interactions and relationships with existing businesses. The five case study BRE programs all discussed the process of listening to existing businesses and using what they learned during visitation to enhance their BRE efforts. The data that are used to influence the program can be generally described as business climate data (workforce, transportation, utilities). This can be distinguished from the performance metrics tracked to measure the success of the BRE program itself.

In summary, BRE success can be enhanced by using the information you gather on your own community to inform strategic planning. It is recommended that EDOs strengthen feedback loops between the process of collecting business climate data during BRE visitation, BRE performance measurement, and strategic planning.

To read the full article: The first 50 people to download the article using this link can view for free.

Article Abstract: Understanding what constitutes success in business retention and expansion (BRE) is a vital first step in determining the extent to which economic development organizations (EDOs) emphasize and use performance measurement for this particular strategy. The limited literature available on the topic suggests that the emphasis EDOs place on performance measurement in BRE will vary, and is likely a function of certain organizational and program characteristics. As such, the article seeks to address three inter-related research questions: (1) How do EDOs define success in BRE based on the specific metrics they collect? (2) What factors explain the variation in emphasis that EDOs place on BRE metrics? and (3) What success factors are evident in the implementation of BRE programs that may increase the chances of achieving desired results? The analysis uses data from a national survey of EDOs and short case studies of five BRE programs in examining the research questions.

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