The Business Expansion and Retention (BEAR) Program begins with a gigantic community dialogue with owners and operators of local businesses about what helps and hinders their business activities and ideas they have to improve the local business environment. It involves the formation of a local Taskforce to lead, design and oversee the implementation of the dialogue, and the use of Community Volunteer Interviewers and a structured interview questionnaire.
Later projects are developed as a result of data gathered from this initial project, and are focused on:
- gathering supporting data from other sources (such as customer);
- responding to issues raised.
The BEAR Program allows the possible discovery of:
- a picture of local business health;
- local business needs and concerns;
- perceptions by local businesses about what is preventing expansion;
- identification of businesses considering relocation outside the community and why;
- perceptions about government actions that help and hinder local businesses;
- opportunities for match making local businesses;
- current and future labour and market needs; and
- new ideas for improving the local economy and business environment.
The ideas and issues raised through the dialogue and questionnaire provide the basis for:
- actions/referral to address immediate business requests and concerns; and
- the design and implementation of business and economic community development strategies and work plans.