BRE: 30 Years of Community Economic Impact

This year marked the 30-year anniversary of an Extension program that’s been delivered in nearly every county of Ohio. After 30 years, do you believe the program could still be relevant?

In just the past three weeks, two requests and a highly anticipated software announcement underscore the innovation and ongoing importance of the Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) program first conceived by OSU’s Leroy Hushak and George Morse in 1986. First, the two requests: 1) a WVU Extension Educator recently called to ask if the BRE program could serve as an effective response mechanism for a number of West Virginia counties that experienced significant flooding this summer, and 2) a new OSU Educator recently inquired about whether BRE could be used to address business gaps within a neighborhood or village setting. The answer (of course):  Yes, and yes!! 

mobile-app-2016-09-15Next, an announcement was made last week regarding a new BRE-customized mobile application that is now ready for commercial release. The mobile application is a highly anticipated outcome of a North Central Regional Center for Rural Development (NCRCRD) multi-state collaborative grant project to elevate and expand the BRE program in the region and throughout the U.S. The team of Ohio, Indiana and Iowa researchers identified the application as a way to revolutionize how data is collected for BRE tracking and reporting. A demonstration and presentation of the mobile application will take place at the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) annual conference September 25 in Cleveland (see program description and speakers below).

BRE began as a comprehensive and innovative program that brought structure to what had been informal efforts focused on improving communications between communities and companies. Since then, the formalized program has been implemented in communities of all sizes and has become a staple for many local, regional and state economic development programs throughout the world. It continues today as a dynamic program to promote business growth, job creation, and healthier economies.

A 2009 national survey found that 62% of cities and counties were doing BRE surveys with their businesses and 82% were partnering with chambers of commerce or others in BRE efforts. Despite widespread use of the program, there has been little research into best practices and how to measure the impact of ongoing BRE programs.

OSU Extension has collaborated with the IEDC to plan and organize a workshop that will explore the impact of BRE at the upcoming IEDC conference at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. It will highlight case studies presented by program representatives, demonstrate new innovations to operate or evaluate BRE programs, and offer an interactive roundtable discussion of current BRE best practices.

It is our goal that attendees will learn:

  • How BRE is used as a central component of economic development strategies
  • New methods to measure the impact of BRE
  • Best practices focused on data collection, analysis and reporting techniques

The workshop will involve the following speakers, several of whom work in Extension:

Moderator: Gwen Eberly, Economic Development Manager, Montgomery County/Community & Economic Development, Dayton, OH


  • Rick Berthiaume, Manager Economic Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs, Guelph, ON, Canada
  • Nancy Bowen-Ellzey, CEcD, Associate Professor and Field Specialist, Community Economics, Ohio State University Extension, Lima, OH
  • David Civittolo, Associate Professor and Field Specialist, Community Economics Ohio State University, Wooster, OH
  • Michael Darger, EDFP, Community Economics Specialist, University of Minnesota Extension, St. Paul, MN
  • Greg Davis, Assistant Director, Ohio State University Extension, Community Development, Columbus, OH
  • David J. Myers, CEcD, Executive Director, Ponca City Development Authority, Ponca City, OK
  • Brent Painter, Director of Economic Development, City of Strongsville, Strongsville, OH
  • Will Warren, CEcD, Consultant, Solutions Delivery, JumpStart Inc., Cleveland, OH

For more IEDC program information or to register, go to

 Nancy Bowen-Ellzey is an Associate Professor and Extension Field Specialist focused on Community Economics.