Over the next few months, almost 200 community businesses will be provided the opportunity to voice their opinions about the local economy through a regional Business Retention + Expansion (BR+E) Research Project, led by the Orillia Area CDC.

After a successful BR+E study was completed by the City of Orillia’s Economic Development Committee in 2010, the CDC, along with several regional partners agreed that another study taking a regional approach would be valuable.

With pooled resources, as well as support from the Government of Ontario, the project promises to engage local businesses in an effort to identify positive and challenging attributes of the region as a place to do business.

The BR+E regional project partners include the City of Orillia, the Townships of Oro-Medonte, Ramara and Severn, the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, the County of Simcoe, and the Province of Ontario.

While the BR+E Project is still in early stages, the businesses involved so far have appreciated the experience.

“I felt like my input was being heard. I believe that by getting involved I have greater influence on the future business environment,” said Dean Beers of Orillia Floor Fashions, one of the first local businesses to participate in the interviews.

Through these interviews, business and market data will be collected that can then be used to support economic development planning that will support existing businesses.

“Our local businesses are important to our communities. Giving them the opportunity to share their perspective on our local business climate will allow local governments and organizations to strengthen or develop programs and supports that meet their needs,” said Wendy Timpano, General Manager of the Orillia Area CDC.

It is anticipated that the current regional BR+E project will have the same success as the Orillia BR+E study completed in 2010, which identified four key areas that needed to be addressed. These key areas included business training, the need for improved relationships with the City, ‘Buy Local’ campaigns, and skilled labour needs in the area.

All four areas have and continue to be addressed by the City. For instance, as a result of the study in 2010, an on-going Professional Development Program is offered through the CDC, and has provided 67 workshops to more than 1,000 registrants. The study also resulted in streamlined development approval processes and an industrial development charge moratorium that has resulted in more than $15-million in new and expanded industrial development and approximately 50 new manufacturing jobs.

The results of the current regional BR+E project will be made available in the spring of 2016.

The BR+E program uses trained volunteers to visit businesses and conduct confidential interviews with the senior level management, owners or managers. To find out how you, and your company can participate, please contact Project Coordinator, Gary Staines at 705 325-4903 ext 114 or [email protected].