• Chutter's storefront with flowers and reflection in window

In economic development we work on strategies for business retention – keeping and strengthening the businesses we have. There is much evidence that this has a bigger economic impact than trying to attract new businesses. These strategies have been around for decades and focus on understanding and meeting the needs of businesses, so they continue to thrive in a location. This is important for jobs, taxes, community vibrancy and quality of life.

Business retention strategy in 2021 must focus on resiliency for both communities and businesses. The pandemic and the economic impacts have resulted in community leaders connecting directly with businesses to learn about their immediate needs such as accessing financial resources, regulatory change for outdoor dining, and buy local movements. There has been success, but the challenges remain.

We now have an opportunity for a dramatically deeper connection between community and local business. Communities should participate and be a resource as businesses develop their resiliency plans. This economic development strategy goes beyond the annual business needs survey and occasional connection at local events. This is an effort to understand what is needed for businesses to build a resilient foundation to continue to weather the pandemic or any crisis.

In business resiliency planning, owners will explore and prepare their businesses for changing workforce needs, cybersecurity, supply and value chain disruption and opportunities for building stronger networks. The critical need for innovation, adaptation and sustainability are understood. These topics have relevance to local leaders and will help determine the necessary community support structure. Communities will gain a better understanding of quality-of-life characteristics such as recreation, childcare, transportation, and education of their locale. Community leaders can foster stronger relationships for supply, finance, regulation, and workforce. 

This business retention strategy is a chance to address the interconnectedness of place and business. Building resiliency in our businesses and community together will result in a stronger economy and vibrant communities resulting in a high quality of life.


Former Community Economic Development State Specialist