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Extension > Community > Business Retention & Expansion > BR&E Tools > Available Sessions

BR&E Tools

Are you considering launching a Business Retention and Expansion initiative in your Minnesota community? Are you confident in your ability to implement the process on your own, but looking for some degree of expert guidance and support? Then University of Minnesota Extension's BR&E Tools are designed for you.

We offer BR&E Tools as an a la carte set of learning, planning, and action sessions distilled from our award-winning BR&E Strategies program. With BR&E Tools, you lead the BR&E process with our help when you want it. Here are the available sessions.

Coaching, Facilitated, or Training Sessions

Neil and Bruce BR&ECoaching sessions, facilitated meetings, and trainings can be delivered in Minnesota communities. Your Community Economics Extension educator will help you design a plan that moves your community forward – customizing your plan to meet local needs and providing your desired level of educator involvement. Mix and match these sessions, and consider other resources provided by Extension's Center for Community Vitality. These sessions are listed in the appropriate order for a successful community BR&E initiative. However, the sequence can vary based on the needs and goals of your community. Your Extension educator will carefully plan each session with you to maximize success in implementing BR&E Strategies.

  1. Planning Your BR&E Initiative– facilitation. This session engages your core BR&E leadership team in a big picture planning session that identifies your BR&E goals, a complete plan of work with milestone meeting dates, and leadership assignments.
  2. BR&E Leadership Team – training. If you want to develop a BR&E leadership team, instead of having just one BR&E leader, then this session is for you. Educators will instruct participants in different BR&E leadership roles and facilitate discernment and decision-making on who will do what. This is a wide-ranging session, and success depends on getting the right potential leaders in the room. The BR&E leadership team model distributes responsibility across three to five members, including an overall coordinator, a visitation coordinator, a milestone meeting coordinator, a media coordinator, and a business resources coordinator.
  3. Putting Together a Good Survey – training. Without a well designed survey instrument, a BR&E initiative will neither attain useful data nor benefit from a high response rate from businesses. Lack of good data or a strong response will hurt credibility and hamper implementation. This session leads participants through considerations for good survey design, including strengths and weaknesses of different types of questions, as well as the sequencing and clarity of questions; visual design issues; and issues pertinent to different delivery methods – in-person interviews, online and mailed surveys, etc. The session also delves into the BR&E Tools survey resources, including survey templates and a question bank. Finally, participants will learn how to test a new survey instrument before release.
  4. Task Force – training. This meeting is for communities that use a BR&E task force. A task force typically includes 15 to 25 individuals representing a broad swath of community expertise across the sectors of business, local government, economic development, education, and more. Your Extension educator facilitates this meeting and helps the group answer the questions that need to be considered before launching a visitation.
    Sample BR&E Task Force Meeting Agenda
    • Distribution of task force packets (local coordinator prepares these in advance)
    • Introductions
    • Presentation of BR&E process and plan of work with key meeting dates and details
    • Review and discussion of BR&E program goals
    • Discussion of draft survey instrument and letters and plan for selecting businesses to visit
    • Additional questions from task force
  5. Business Visitor – training. Proper data collection techniques are essential to gathering complete and accurate data from businesses. This session is designed for communities using volunteer visitors for survey data collection. Participants will observe and discuss "good, bad and ugly" visitation techniques, and they will review the survey instrument and goals of the BR&E program. Typically, this meeting is held at the launch of the visitation program. Visitor teams could be formed at this meeting and matched with businesses to interview, or the visitation coordinator could pre-assign visits before the meeting. Your community can enlist an Extension educator to facilitate this training, or you could do this on your own by purchasing the Retaining and Expanding Business in Your Community DVD.
  6. Immediate Survey Follow Up (a.k.a. Warning Flags Analysis) – facilitation or training. Your BR&E team needs to thoroughly review completed BR&E surveys in order to identity and follow up on important issues (called warning flags, or red flags) with the visited businesses. Extension educators can either facilitate the warning flag review of the BR&E surveys or train your BR&E team how to conduct your own warning flag reviews. A warning flag review consists of a confidential examination of completed written surveys to determine immediate follow-up issues. Issues can be prioritized for immediate, medium-term and longer-term response. Specific issues are assigned to reliable and knowledgeable persons for follow up. A leader is given responsibility for tracking the assignments to ensure that follow up happens. The credibility of the BR&E effort is on the line with issue followup.
  7. Basic Data Analysis & Report Writing – training. This session provides training on converting data to information for economic development decision making and action. The overall coordinator and the person responsible for entering and analyzing the survey data should attend. This meeting is also useful to economic development leaders and other community leaders who are interested in analyzing, interpreting, and presenting data. The basic data analysis and report writing skills would be applicable not only to your local BR&E program but also to related economic development-oriented projects.

    Understanding and making use of the survey data is often challenging for many coordinators and task force members. That's why we have designed this session to help attendees sort through the survey data, as well as secondary data sources; select and analyze what is relevant to program objectives; and finally, construct a narrative of the local economy. This narrative can then be used for action planning, policy setting, and other community purposes. Attendees are encouraged to bring their program objectives and data files. Participants will receive report templates, as well as information on obtaining secondary data, and a methodology for understanding and communicating the local community's economic story. You can assign someone on your team to write your community's report, or you may want to hire Extension's analyst/writer to perform that task, for a fee.
  8. Setting Priorities and Taking Action (planning retreat) – facilitation. When your survey data have been collected, tabulated and put into report form (by someone on your team or, for a fee, by Extension's Analyst/Writer) it is time to 1. Select priority projects and 2. Implement them. Extension's BR&E team has considerable experience facilitating communities successfully through this process. Participants thoroughly review data during this session, but it won't get deadly boring because effective adult education and strategic planning methods are employed. The session cycles through rounds of data presentation, individual reflection, discussion, and decision making to keep participants engaged. Extension plays the role of neutral broker for what the community decides to do; however, educators provide strong guidance to help the community prioritize actions and move forward.

    Some communities may want Extension educators to facilitate more than one meeting during the planning process, which allows the group to prioritize projects in one meeting and design them in another.
  9. Community Commencement Meeting – training or facilitation. The Community Commencement meeting is the opportunity for your BR&E team to announce and celebrate the results of the BR&E survey and implementation plan with the community at a big public meeting. This session is for the task force that wants to make a splash and engage with the broader community as it transitions from the "Prioritize Step 2" of the BR&E Process (PDF) into "Implement Step 3". Extension educators do not play a central role at the meeting itself, but rather work to help you plan the meeting ahead of time so the gathering is vibrant and engaging for all. Some communities use this meeting as an opportunity to recruit more volunteers for priority projects.
  10. BR&E Project Implementation – training. Extension continually evaluates and conducts case studies of communities that have engaged in BR&E Strategies efforts. This meeting shares insights from Extension's ongoing research in order to motivate local BR&E participants and give them the skills for successful action over time. Some BR&E "studies" have been just that – beautiful, brilliant and even inspiring reports that end up on the proverbial shelf and are never implemented. This meeting is designed to motivate participants with research-based information so they will implement action plans, optimize their efforts, and claim success for their local economy.

    This meeting can either be a training session or facilitation, but the emphasis will always tilt toward helping the community move out of research into action.
  11. Ripple Effect Mapping – facilitation. As the name implies, this session is designed to capture the "ripple effects" of your BR&E efforts after your team has implemented its priority projects. Extension educators facilitate a focus group session with your BR&E team in which participants reflect on the positive outcomes of the community's BR&E effort. Using mind-mapping software and nominal group technique, the outcomes from the community's BR&E efforts are elicited from participants and recorded, or mapped. Direct participants in the BR&E, as well as indirect beneficiaries, are encouraged to attend the ripple effect meeting so as to include the broadest set of effects, including if there were any negative effects. Completion of a ripple effect "map" will give your community a visual tool depicting the outcomes of your hard work. If desired, Extension educators can follow up with another session 6 or 12 months later to document additional progress.

See Info Sheet (308K PDF) for pricing information.

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