Business retention and expansion course
The BRE class was highly informative and applicable to my daily work in economic development. Learning the history, theory and practice of BRE has positively impacted my effectiveness as a business developer as I engage with employers in our community.
— Josh MacInnes (Duluth, Minnesota)
A healthy, vibrant local economy depends largely on the strength of existing businesses. Community leaders can help local businesses grow and thrive through business retention and expansion (BRE) programs.
University of Minnesota Extension has offered business retention and expansion courses since 1996. You can choose to take an eight-week online course or attend a three-day, in-person workshop. Both options provide an opportunity for you to learn learn how to conduct high-quality programs in your community or region.
The BRE online course is an eight-week class. Two sessions are scheduled in 2018.
The online course takes two-to-three hours per week during an eight-week period. It's an asynchronous course, so you can participate when it is most convenient for you. While the format of the class allows for a flexible schedule, you do need to stay involved on a weekly basis.
There are a few videos or readings, activities and discussion forums each week. Highlights include a practice visit to a real business and periodic live discussions on BRE topics. The course "capstone" project involves planning your community BRE initiative via a written paper, video, or voice recording.
The course schedule is subject to change, but general topics will remain the same.
Materials included in the course:
- The new BRE issue of Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society, Volume 48(2)
- A BRE DVD including several video training segments
- Week 1: Introducing the BRE process
- Week 2: Strategic considerations for your BRE
- Week 3: Getting your BRE off the ground
- Week 4: Building your team
- Week 5: Getting going on business visits
- Week 6: Responding to business concerns
- Week 7: Analysis – decision-making – action
- Week 8: Building and sustaining credible BRE initiatives over time
The BRE in-person course is a traditional class over three days. One session is scheduled in 2018.
The course begins at 1 p.m. on a Wednesday and ends at noon on a Friday at the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus. It is a three-day BRE immersion that includes presentations, video, discussions, individual and small group work, and plenty of discussion.
Highlights include practice visits to real businesses (and a mock planning session based on results), guest experts who provide BRE tips and stories, and a chance to get to know other economic developers and expand your network. While there is no course paper or homework, you will have the opportunity to think about the best BRE approach for your situation.
The course agenda is subject to change, but general topics will remain the same.
1:00 p.m. — Introduction to course
1:30 p.m. — Participant introductions and self-assessment
2:00 p.m. — BRE visitation options and big picture
3:15 p.m. — Break
3:30 p.m. — BRE interview guides and surveys
4:00 p.m. — Volunteer visitor training
5:30 p.m. — Conversation with Karen Lauer, EDA director, Barnesville
6:00 p.m. — Dinner with participants and instructors
7:30 a.m. — Continental breakfast
8:15 a.m. — Overview of the community, preparation for business visits
9:00 a.m. — Travel to businesses
9:15 a.m. — Conduct business visits
10:15 a.m. — Return to course site
♦ Post-visit team discussion with post-visit debrief worksheet
♦ Warning flag analysis
11:00 a.m. — Warning flag review and debrief of business visit experience
11:30 a.m. — Reflective recap of techniques used
Noon — Lunch
1:00 p.m. — BRE team development and planning
1:30 p.m. — Individual study
2:30 p.m. — Review and recap findings from individual study time
3:00 p.m. — BRE plan of work assignments
4:00 p.m. — Presentations by leadership teams
4:30 p.m. — Interpreting data and selecting projects — Brigid Tuck, Extension guest speaker
5:00 p.m. — Parking lot and wrap-up
5:15 p.m. — Adjourn — evening on your own
7:15 a.m. — Breakfast
8:00 a.m. — Individual analysis of survey with data from Wednesday's visits
8:30 a.m. — Project teams create two-to-three appropriate projects for a strategic theme
9:00 a.m. — Task force retreat simulation with created projects
10:00 a.m. — BRE reports (UMN Extension examples)
10:30 a.m. — Implementation of priority projects
11:00 a.m. — What’s new in BRE
Noon — Box lunch
♦ Wrap-up activity
♦ Course evaluation
Costs and discounts
The cost of the course is $500 per person.
Community-led BRE is all about teamwork, so we encourage teams to attend training together. We also offer discounts for team attendance.
- $750 - two registered community team members
- $1,000 - three-to-five registered community members
The discount is only for groups from a town or city, county, school district, or other groups of contiguous communities. It is available for either the online or in-person course.
Course certification is available from Business Retention and Expansion International (BREI). This is an international association that promotes and educates about BRE. For a certification and membership fee, it will provide certification to people who successfully complete a University of Minnesota BRE course.
Meet the course instructors
The availability of an online class allowed our community BRE stakeholders to take this class together without leaving our community. The communication from the instructors was informative and prompt. The lessons were informative, and we all gained useful information for our next community BRE survey to have great results.
— Steve Roe (Grants Pass, Oregon)
"Very worthwhile course."
"I really liked how the online forums and discussions went, and it was a nice way to save on travel time."
"One of the best parts of the class was being able to go out into the business community and do an actual business visitation."
"Both [instructors] were great and worked very well together."
"You [instructors] both did a great job and understand the process well."