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Business retention and expansion (BRE) today - research, application and evaluation: introduction to the special issue

Key findings for communities

  • Business retention and expansion (BRE) involves outreach efforts by economic development organizations to understand the needs, concerns and aspirations of businesses in a community or region.
  • A majority of economic developers employ a continuous visitation approach with frequent conversations and connections with local businesses. 
  • Contemporary BRE methods and tools include electronic surveys, mobile-based survey tools, conversational approaches, focus groups and both more formal and less formal methods of outreach. 

The Community Development Society's special issue covers, among other topics:

  • the intersection of BRE and economic development,
  • data collection and implementation of priority activities,
  • relationships and partnerships,
  • evaluation and measuring results, and
  • case studies from real BRE programming.

About this report

Since the 1980s, business retention and expansion (BRE) activities have been a primary focus of economic development professionals. This special issue is a collection of literature that contributes to both BRE theory and practice. We present current research, program evaluation and case studies that describe the diverse ways economic development organizations reach out and respond to the needs of their existing businesses. Some authors took a theoretical approach by investigating survey data sets from large professional associations. Others contributed practitioner stories of local innovation. Still, others shared the results and evolution of state or provincial programs. A literature review by guest editors covers relevant topics not discussed in the articles.

More about this report

Read full report (PDF)


Michael Darger, Extension, director of business retention and expansion; Alan Barefield, Extension professor, agricultural economics, Mississippi State University; Brent D. Hales, Extension, senior associate dean

Reviewed in 2018

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