Since 1986, more than 140 communities have participated in The Ohio Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) Program. The program assists community leaders to focus their attention on addressing the needs and concerns of their local businesses. As a result of the BR&E Program, businesses in Ohio's communities have become more successful, and the economic environments of the participating communities have been strengthened.
"By addressing the needs of our industrial partners, we were able to work with them individually, which has resulted in a better relationship. The end result has been the expansion of our existing businesses and through the partnerships that have resulted with them, new businesses have located in Strongsville."
- Mike Daymut, Strongsville City Council
"We had a prospect who was looking into constructing a new building. However, he'd heard mixed reviews about our Planning Process. I showed him our most recent survey findings so he could see how our Planning Process was rated by the business community. He indicated that the information was helpful and at this time it looks like he is going ahead with the project."
-Brent Painter, Economic Development Office, City of Strongsville
In what follows, we share some of the success stories of Ohio's local BR&E programs. These examples include retention, expansion, and attraction of businesses; infrastructure development; increased community partnerships that focus on business development; and long-term strategic planning efforts. The successes reported here should not be attributed completely to the Ohio Business Retention & Expansion Program, though community leaders indicated that their involvement in this program was an important factor. The successes reported here demonstrate that dedicated local leadership and volunteers can promote positive economic change in their community.
A business which was considering locating its expansion in a neighboring state was referred to the Ohio Department of Development's Industrial Revenue Bond Program and convinced to expand at its present site. This expansion reinvested $2 million in the county and added 22 new jobs, resulting in $286,000 annually in payroll increases.
The Wingfoot Film Corporation decided to reinvest $7 million and add a new product line at its Carroll County existing site instead of at an out-of-state site it was considering. The expansion added 25 jobs to the existing 115-120 employees.
The Clinton County BR&E Task Force was in place to react to crisis of possible plant closure. The plant remained open, saving 100 jobs.
A business, which is one of the few US producers of silicon wafers for computers, needed to train its 280 workers in quality statistical processes in order to remain competitive in the industry. The BR&E effort helped the business get an Ohio Department of Development Ohio Industrial Training Program (OITP) grant to cover part of its training costs.
The Darke County Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Board of Regents provided funding for development of new mathematics curriculum and materials for non-college bound high school students. The program is designed to better meet the needs of local businesses.
To raise funds for a full-time economic development professional, a "town" meeting was held and county, township, city, and officials of other political jurisdictions worked out a cooperative funding arrangement.
Eastern Ohio Development Alliance (EODA)
Economic development and community officials were able to identify and assist 56 businesses in the 14 county region with plans to modernize or expand. The program also found that nearly 9 out of 10 program participants would recommend their county to another business and 72% indicated the area was an Excellent or Good place to do business.
The BR&E survey identified businesses interested in international trade. The local chamber of commerce, technical college, and other organizations use this list for target mailings regarding international trade programs, information updates, and other items of interest to businesses involved in international trade.
City of Euclid, Cuyahoga County
While conducting the BR&E program, the community was notified of a plant closing. Although they were unable to retain the business, another business was attracted to the site before the first business had actually left the community.
The BR&E effort linked local businesses with the city school's adult and vocational education programs. Immediately, employees of one manufacturing program were tested and a training program provided to eliminate excessive scrap and reduce production costs.
BR&E involvement laid the groundwork for attracting over $80 million in investment and savings and creating 764 jobs, resulting in a 31.1 percent increase in manufacturing employment in the county.
BR&E findings were instrumental in the award of a $61 million highway project to complete a four-lane, limited access highway through Gallia County.
The BR&E Program identified a business considering a small business loan. With assistance, the business was able to secure an SBA loan, which allowed it to expand, adding 5 to 20 jobs.
City of Greenfield, Highland County
By linking a business with the Ohio Department of Development loan and women-owned business programs, the company was able to continue its 22-worker operation and add part-time employees.
The BR&E survey identified a manufacturer that expressed a need for routing its supplier's trucks through a residential neighborhood via an alleyway. The business had pursued the use of the alley in the past but was told that it was privately owned and unavailable. However, the BR&E survey team discovered that the alley was a dedicated city alley and that semi-traffic was a permissible use. The business is now using the alley.
When its largest customer was lost, a Jefferson County business needed to diversify its lines and find new markets. The business was awarded a grant from the Ohio Department of Development's Ohio Industrial Training Program (OITP) to cover some of the retraining costs. Probable layoffs among the existing 35 employees were avoided and nine new jobs were created.
An announcement that one of the county's major employers had sold one of its product lines created fear in the community that the plant would pull out entirely. Although employment was reduced from 450 to 300 employees, the plant made a commitment to stay. The union signed a 3-year contract and a new manager was hired from within the business rather than outside.
An Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) library was established at the local courthouse to provide information to businesses regarding current regulations and compliance requirements. The library has been widely used.
A recreational airport is now trying to serve the business community's needs better by providing transportation to local businesses.
As a result of their BR&E Action Plan, the Paulding County R&E Task Force established an economic development council to guide economic development efforts in the county.
City of Piqua, Miami County
Cooperation of three local businesses and public officials led to the attraction of the Berwick Steel Company, bringing $8 million in investments and 50 new jobs.
The City of Piqua's BR&E program revealed that 67 percent of the businesses surveyed would favor a tax levy to finance street repair. The levy was later put on the ballot and approved, enabling the City to repave 60 of its 84 miles of streets within the next 10 years, compared to the 20 miles which have been repaved in the last five years. Repaving the streets is expected to improve the City's attractiveness and improve the business environment.
The BR&E findings were used as a basis for surveying general public within and outside the community regarding their perceptions of the city. Findings were also used in developing a long-term strategic plan.
Philips Display Components, the county's largest manufacturing employer with 2041 employees, was offered an enterprise zone and incentive package on its $24 million expansion project. As a result, the business made a 10-year commitment to stay in the community at its 40-year-old site even though the average life span of a manufacturing facility is 40 years.
The BR&E survey identified expansion of 13 manufacturing businesses, and the creation of about 300 new jobs.
Following the BR&E Program the county reported on the attraction of a Canadian freezer manufacturer (creating 130 new jobs) and a Japanese-U.S. joint venture steel galvanizing plant.
The BR&E Program helped to link this county more closely with a group of 12 Chambers of Commerce in the Toledo area which were working on a regional strategic plan.
Based partly on BR&E findings, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Turnpike Commission committed to undertake several highway projects to link the northwest Ohio and the Toledo area in a regional transportation package.
After completing their first BR&E Program, the program leaders saw it as an excellent vehicle for contacting their businesses and creating a pro-business attitude. After reviewing the data and strategy recommendations produced from the program, the community decided to put additional emphasis on long-term strategic planning.
A housing shortage identified through the BR&E program prompted a strategic plan for building 400 houses.
Van Wert County
A participant of the BR&E program since 2000, Van Wert County has found that the program has opened lines of communication between community agencies, organizations, committees, and businesses. New partnerships have been created as a result. These new partnerships have enabled existing businesses in the area to create 690 jobs and retain 900 jobs during this time period.
After participating in the BR&E Program, the community was organized to address its housing needs and develop a Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS), which is now required when applying for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding.
A chemical workers' training program was created through the cooperation of the local technical college, Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), Ohio Bureau of Employment Services, and the Ohio Department of Human Services. The program enabled a business to hire local residents to fill 40 new positions. The program was later expanded to a two-year degree program at the technical college.
More than 100 businesses were surveyed in Wyandot County to better understand how the local community could help those businesses become more profitable and expand. Nearly 90 percent of the businesses were locally owned and operated and the need for a coordinated county-wide effort to develop the area’s economy was also identified. Two years later, a partnership between the county, the business community, and Extension was formed to focus on coordinating economic development efforts in Wyandot County.