Stay-at-home orders, new health precautions, few to no disaster plans ready, and more challenges have taken a toll on Ohio businesses—both small and large—throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Economic developers addressed these topics during a webinar hosted last spring by the Ohio Economic Development Association (OEDA) on “Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) Intelligence in the Era of COVID.” Nancy Bowen, OSU Extension field specialist in community economics, participated in the panel discussion.
During her comments, Bowen noted that many businesses were not ready for the workforce and financial issues accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic. To prepare businesses, Bowen emphasized that future BRE efforts should include increased preventive firewalls for disaster resiliency, sophisticated contact databases, and updated technologies. She also focused on the economic development profession.
“I think more economic developers will be thinking about BRE as more of a backbone tool—a key way to not only establish relationships with the businesses, but to help the economic developers to respond to business
needs,” said Bowen.
In fact, Bowen and her OSU Extension community development program colleagues are using their program, Ohio BRE, to help businesses across the Buckeye state with their current needs. The program facilitates discussion and provides resources to help communities understand their local economies, which can in turn be used for economic action and planning.
Established in 1986, the Ohio BRE program has conducted more than 140 programs in 77 counties, and its success will continue through its recent adaptations. The program’s new approach is similar to Bowen’s ideas outlined to OEDA webinar participants—becoming more specific in technical expertise, emergency planning, and financial planning.