COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In a time when job creation and business expansion is crucial to Ohio’s economic future, an Ohio State University Extension program is garnering attention.
Launched in 1986, the Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) program has worked with community leaders in 77 of Ohio’s 88 counties, helping them prioritize, plan and implement community development initiatives.
In the past five years alone, the program is credited with creating 897 new jobs and retaining 1,365. That accounts for $86 million in personal income generated.
“A large reason that we chose Van Wert was due to the assistance from Ohio State University Extension’s Business Retention and Expansion Program,” said Kim Elick, president of Braun Industries. The company, a manufacturer of custom-built ambulances, has been in business for 40 years, the last 10 in Van Wert.
Braun has worked with BR&E for a decade. “It has been a real asset to us. It’s helped us grow our business -- our staffing has grown from 94 employees to 140 employees in 2011,” Elick said.
Success in BR&E has a lot to do with the chemistry of the community team, said Greg Davis, assistant director for Community Development for OSUE.
“The secrets for success vary from engagement to engagement. We don’t work magic – it’s all about the local folks and the chemistry they bring to the table. It also has to do with timing, and the influence of state and national issues,” Davis said.
He points to Strongsville, a suburb of Cleveland, as a community with a strong community team and, like Van Wert, one that has worked with BR&E for about 10 years.
“We’ve had a great partnership with Ohio State,” said Mike Daymut, president of Strongsville City Council. “We’ve made use of the survey arm -- we’re in the process of doing our third survey. We use the results for retaining and attracting new businesses. It helps shows the attractiveness of Strongsville and the attention we pay to businesses and all aspects of the city.”
While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes a company choose to stay in or relocate to Strongsville, Brent Painter, Strongsville’s manager of economic development credits the BR&E surveys with retaining hundreds of jobs.
“In a couple of instances, we’ve been able to resolve issues that we learned about through the survey,” Painter says. The industrial/high-tech surveys also show how business friendly the community is.
He credits information from a residential census, which showed community interest, with a 312,000 square foot retail area that’s attracted a Best Buy, Costco, PETCO and more.
Other successful BR&E efforts:
- In Fayette County, BR&E involvement laid the groundwork for attracting over $80 million in investment and creating 764 jobs, resulting in a 31% increase in manufacturing employment.
- In Gallia County, BR&E findings were instrumental in awarding a $61 million highway project.
- In Auglaize County, BR&E efforts helped a business expansion, reinvesting $2 million in the county, adding 22 new jobs and $286,000 a year in payroll increases.
Coming up next for BR&E, Davis sees an expansion in delivery methods. “I see us capitalizing more on new teaching technologies, cloud computing and social media,” he said. “We’ll become even more interactive and collaborative and see more community-to-community sharing of ideas and successes."
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