By Jennifer Vernon, Consultant

According to the 2017 ED Index, activities related to expansion prospects accelerated the most over their 2016 levels. 60% of EDOs experienced an increase in expansion prospect activity (a jump of nearly 24 percentage points) compared to only 35% experiencing growth in relocation project activity (up 12 percentage points from 2016).

Business retention programs and initiatives take on many forms from welcoming committees, in-person visits, surveys, online business directories, business assistance, buy local initiatives and industry task forces, to name a few. But the foundation of any business retention program is the relationship. Nurturing these open lines of communication will allow local business needs to drive your activities.  Awareness is also key. Be sure to provide a directory of existing industry services and contacts on your website and encourage local partners to direct traffic to your site.

Aside from actual job creation, expanding businesses can also be a sign of a strong and responsive business climate and therefore your best marketing tool. At the very least, use your list of business expansions to demonstrate your success to new prospects. Or taken a step further, leverage these happy customers as community ambassadors or sources for potential prospects.

Looking for inspiration? Here are two notable suggestions for engaging your local employers from some of our recent clients:

A Buy Local Initiative as a Quick Crisis Response
#GoSoCo Shop Local Campaign – Sonoma County, California

The 2017 Southern California wildfires had the potential to wreak extreme havoc on the local economies surrounding Sonoma County. In a quick response, the Sonoma Economic Development Board partnered with 9 cities and 15 Chambers of Commerce to create the shop local campaign “All You Need is Local – #GoSoCo.” The campaign reinforced to local residents how spending their money at Sonoma County-based businesses contributed to a more resilient, sustainable local economy.  Together they reached more than 55,000 shoppers with a campaign that included social, print, and digital advertising. This initiative recently won an Award of Excellence at the 38th Annual California Association of Local Economic Development Conference.

Public-Private Partnerships for Workforce Solutions
Troup Works – Troup County, Georgia

When a workforce analysis predicted a 13% gap between 5-year projections in job growth and population growth, leaders in Troup County knew it was time to get serious about closing the talent gap. The newly established Troup Works workgroup consists of leaders from business, industry, education, and the community. The workgroup will be collaboratively addressing the community’s needs for workforce development, talent recruitment, and talent retention utilizing a strategy facilitated and developed by Avalanche in 2017.

Troup County is no stranger to the power of partnerships. One of their greatest achievements thus far is THINC Academy, a school centered around community needs and driven by business and industry.

Let us hear from you! What’s been a favorite outcome or “aha moment” from your business retention endeavors?