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University of Minnesota Extension

Introduction to business retention and expansion (BRE)

Why is BRE important?

Business retention and expansion (BRE) is a popular and practical economic development activity in the United States and Canada. The University of Minnesota’s Connecting Businesses and Community Program (formerly known as the BR&E Strategies Program) has operated continuously since 1990 and thus offers experience from more than 75 community-driven BRE initiatives in that time period.

We know that BRE can strengthen the economic and social fabric of communities when led by a broad cross-section of community leaders and supported by educators who are familiar with BRE techniques.

Where does it fit in the economic development ecosystem?

Organized BRE programs developed from a recognition of the vital importance of local businesses in an economy. BRE programs allow communities to address individual business issues while also providing insight into the concerns of the broader business community.

Communities working in a systematic fashion to address business concerns can generate positive externalities like an entrepreneurial culture or a strong business environment. However, BRE programs cannot provide all the economic development activity that a community needs. For example, while a positive business climate developed through BRE efforts can help to attract new businesses, BRE itself is not designed to be an attraction strategy.

Further, it does not provide an outside perspective on the prospects or relative attractiveness of doing business in the community.

Our BRE model

The following is a brief introduction to the practice and precepts embedded in our long-standing BRE Course.


Community volunteers you will need

Leadership team:
The executive committee of the task force, and provides overall leadership for the initiative. All leadership team members are expected to help other members of the leadership team and visit businesses.
Task force:
The broad-based group of community members that collaborate through step one research, step two prioritize, and step three implement of the Connecting Businesses and Community Program.

Roles and time estimates

Learn below more about the volunteers needed and a time estimate for their involvement.


How can Extension help

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the business retention and expansion steps? Or need guidance at any stage of the process? Know that Extension is here to help. We want your BRE program to be a success.

We offer helpful do-it-yourself tools and resources for retaining local community businesses , instructor-led courses, and our Connecting Businesses and Community program for a more hands-on consultative approach.

Questions about BRE? Contact Michael Darger.

Reviewed in 2022

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