When economic developers discuss Business Retention & Expansion initiatives (BRE), problem-solving responsibilities often come to mind.
What issue is ABC Manufacturing having locally? How can I fix it?
BRE is also associated with opportunity identification.
Company XYZ is busting at the seams. We may be able to help them expand locally!
But one area that is not addressed enough but which serves both the goals of problem-solving and expansion is collaboration. In the article 7 Rivers Alliance continues to foster collaboration in region, the alliance (a group of members from three neighboring states) is working to get local businesses in a room together to talk about common issues and opportunities. The alliance “organizes meetings where they can provide updates on projects, discuss best practices, identify available resources and provide a local way to advance their learning. Topics of past meetings have included identifying data available for economic development, increasing access to capital and geographic information system mapping.”
Essentially, the alliance is trying to answer the question: “Are there some best practices that can be shared?”
BRE professionals are not islands. They don’t have to come up with every great idea, every solution, every opportunity on their own. And more importantly, often it’s not efficient to identify and determine a solution purely for one business in one situation. If the issues and opportunities cross multiple local businesses, get them in a room together, and just facilitate their sharing of information and best practices.
Sometimes, helping your customers help each other is the best thing a BRE professional can do.