International business conference provides development strategies
By Jeanne Brunson
Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 37 - July 30, 1998
A division of Virginia Tech's Public Service Programs--Outreach Division hosted its first-annual Business Retention and Expansion International Conference June 10-12. "This was an excellent opportunity for community leaders to learn from experts and each other on the best local economic-development strategy," said Doug McAlister, executive director of Virginia Tech's Public Service Programs.
Industrial and economic developers and other municipal officials from across the country gathered at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center for the conference, sponsored by Virginia Tech's Economic Development Assistance Center and Business Retention & Expansion International (BREI).
BREI is a non-profit association of economic-development professionals who are working for the advancement of business retention and expansion--a community-based economic strategy to encourage the growth of local businesses. Other sponsors included Virginia Cooperative Extension and the United States Economic Development Administration.
Participants in the annual conference were from Canada, Australia and 22 states. Roanoke Mayor David Bowers was present June 10 to give the conference's opening remarks.
Breakout sessions at the conference included panel discussions titled "Dealing with the Complexities of BR&E in Urban Areas," and "Making the BR&E Research Report an Invaluable Community-Development Tool," among others. One of the most-talked-about sessions was Eric Canada's "Strategic Information, the Opportunity Ahead." Canada is a founding partner of Blane-Canada Ltd., a consulting firm specializing in economic-development marketing.
"We had an opportunity to exchange ideas on alternative approaches from 15 BR&E experts," said newly elected BREI President George Morse. "The annual business meeting, run by former President Kathy Tweeten, was the first in BREI history that had 98 percent [of the members] in attendance. Members were actively involved in a discussion of future directions of BREI and later in committee meetings."
Preceding the annual conference was a master-consultant-certification course June 8-10, also at Hotel Roanoke, which was designed to train community business leaders and government officials on how to conduct a business retention and expansion (BR&E) visitation program. Business visitation is an important first step in helping a community decide which existing business programs to emphasize. Participants received hands-on practice in five major phases of visitation programs: training volunteers, visiting firms, reviewing surveys, developing recommendations, and reporting to the community.
"Business Retention and Expansion International members appreciated the hospitality of Virginia Tech's Economic Development Assistance Center and the historical Hotel Roanoke in hosting its 1998 Consultant Certification Workshop and Annual Conference," Morse said. "On behalf of BREI, we wish to thank Virginia Tech for hosting the conference."