Business Retention and Expansion

What is Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E)?

Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) is a community-based economic development program with a focus on supporting existing businesses. It provides a systematic approach to assist communities in developing strategies to support businesses, retain and create new jobs and opportunities. BR+E uses an in-depth, four stage process to assist communities in developing and implementing concrete action plans.

Why is it important?

Undertaking a BR+E helps communities understand local business needs and respond – so that businesses stay, grow, and become more competitive in the community.

It is important to recognize that few communities can do everything they would like to in order to support existing businesses. The BR+E program helps communities to identify their priorities.

The BR+E program involves trained volunteers visiting businesses to conduct confidential interviews with senior level management, owners or managers. Data analysis and action planning is then undertaken to address issues and opportunities.

BR+E Goals

Specific BR+E project goals may vary from community to community, and could include:

Short-Term Goals

  • Build and improve relations with existing businesses
  • Build capacity within the community and strengthen relationships between organizations
  • Identify the positive and challenging attributes of the community as a place to do business
  • Identify and address immediate concerns and issues of individual businesses through an assessment and referral process
  • Collect business and market data to support economic development planning
  • Establish and implement a strategic action plan to support existing businesses

Long-Term Goals

  • Increase the competitiveness of existing businesses
  • Enable business development, investment and job creation
  • Foster and enhance the environment for business development

What is the Business Retention and Expansion Process?

The Ontario BR+E program is based on a four stage, 12 step process:

  1. Preparation
    Step 1 – Assess Community Readiness
    Step 2 – Form the Leadership Team
    Step 3 – Project Design
    Step 4 – Volunteer Recruitment and Training
  2. Collect and Analyze
    Step 5 - Conduct Business Interviews
    Step 6 – Address Immediate Concerns and Opportunities
    Step 7 – Data Analysis
  3. Develop Goals and Action Plans
    Step 8 - Host BR+E Task Force Retreat
    Step 9 - Prepare Final Report and Action Plan
    Step 10 - Communicate Results
  4. Implement and Monitor
    Step 11 – Implement Action Plans
    Step 12 - Monitor and Track Progress


There are a variety of tools and resources that have been developed to assist communities conducting a BR+E project.

a) BR+E Training

Training is available for BR+E Coordinators to ensure they have a solid understanding of the BR+E process to effectively coordinate and implement projects.

The training is divided into two parts:

  1. Part 1 - Planning and Conducting a BR+E Project
    This 1.5 day training focuses on preparation and effectively conducting the business interviews.
  2. Part 2 – Analyzing and Reporting on a BR+E Project
    One day session covers how to analyze and report on BR+E projects.

b) BR+E Coordinator's Manual

c) Base and Sector Surveys

  • A comprehensive business retention (base) survey and optional business sector surveys (Agriculture, Manufacturing, Mining, Natural Resources, Downtown/Retail, Tourism and Local Food)

d) Online Data Management System

  • Access to the online Executive Pulse data management system. Executive Pulse is the most widely used database system for managing business retention and expansion projects in North America. It is a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use system that allows for easy data entry, some customized community questions, and extensive reporting capabilities.
  • One hour webinars are available to provide a demonstration of how the Executive Pulse system supports a BR+E project. Contact your Advisor for more information.

e) Provincial Roll-Up Reports

f) Examples of Final BR+E Reports

g) Other Resources

  • Includes sample volunteer job descriptions, press releases, letters and meeting formats that can be easily customized.
  • Provincial Staff Advisors who can provide coaching and advice throughout the project.

How do I get it?

If you would like to receive a copy of the BR+E Coordinator’s Manual or are interested in training, complete a request form.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 12 February 2015
Last Reviewed: 24 November 2016