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Retention Strategy Capitalizes on Existing Opportunities
By Erik Collins
Economic Development Manager for Montgomery County, Ohio

Plant closings. Mass layoffs. Manufacturing jobs sent offshore. Corporate downsizing. Offshoring telemarketing jobs. Growing numbers of unemployed and underemployed.
What are elected officials to do in the face of economic globalization that is negatively impacting a community's workforce?

The solution is readily at hand in every American community  it is the employers who are already located there. Studies have shown that up to 80% of job growth in any U.S. community comes from existing businesses, not from attraction prospects. It makes sense  and good use of limited economic development resources  to encourage local employers to stay, grow and add more workers.

One community that has taken this approach to heart is Montgomery County, Ohio which includes the major city of Dayton. Elected officials and economic development organizations have developed a collaborative business retention program called BusinessFirst! that addresses retention and expansion opportunities of businesses in a systematic and professional manner. Using its technology partners from Executive Pulse and eGoware, Inc., local jurisdictions from Montgomery County and another jurisdiction from an adjacent county have joined to establish an effective business retention program. Imagine if your community could report what Montgomery County can report to its elected officials and residents.

The BusinessFirst! Program conducts an average of 40 face-to-face meetings per month with business owners; over 1,000 firms have been visited since the program began in December 2001.

Program representatives visited with 186 companies since June 2003, of which 70 were in the all-important manufacturing sector.

Of these 186 firms, 100 firms have received assistance in workforce recruitment and training. Another eight companies have received financing for new equipment, land and building expansions.

Of these 186 firms, one firm faced with a consolidation decision involving another facility in Illinois chose to consolidate and expand at its Montgomery County facility, aided in large part by the quick and professional response of the retention team.

The response of BusinessFirst! Resource Partners was instrumental in prompting another firm to consolidate operations in Dayton, saving 235 workers.

Initially, BusinessFirst! had 34 local, regional and state-level economic development organizations, today there are over 70 Regional Resource Partners that serve on the BusinessFirst! retention team who quickly and professionally assist firms when a referral is made to them.

These results were achieved by focusing on the employers already located in Montgomery County. It underscores an important point: a systematic, sustainable business retention program is a cost-effective way to create jobs to replace the jobs lost in a community through economic globalization.

Should you invest in an attraction strategy and ignore the companies already located in your community?

Opportunity lost? Or opportunity gained? It's your call.

For more information, contact Erik Collins, Economic Development Manager for Montgomery County, Ohio or 937-225-4642.