The retention of existing industry is critical to the EDC mission. While the most publicized economic developments often tend to involve attracting new business to the area, the most common and necessary economic developments come from current community businesses.
Traditionally, the greatest area of economic growth is from expansion programs of existing industry.
Realizing this, it’s no surprise a substantial amount of our energy is invested in the retention and growth of existing tri-County businesses. Data consistently indicates the importance of a solid retention/expansion program. An article by Todd Klabenes in the July issue of Chamber of Commerce Pacesetter cited many reasons for a strong business retention program.
- Research has clearly shown most expansions take place at existing locations or within 50 miles of existing facilities.
- The cost-per-job created is much less for existing business expansion programs compared to the recruitment of new businesses.
- Existing businesses are currently supplying jobs, tax base, and other benefits to the area and deserve attention.
- Existing businesses are the best indicator of the health of the local economy.
- Local retention and expansion programs can influence an existing firm to remain and/or expand. Such programs can mean the difference between losing, retaining, or gaining jobs and investments.
The first order of business should always be to keep our existing companies happy so they do not become another community’s target. Companies have long been aware that it costs twice as much to build a new client relationship than it does to maintain an existing one. Economic development is no different. The word-of-mouth principle applies here, also. Existing businesses are the best ambassadors for attracting new firms because prospects typically will discuss the business climate with existing firms before moving to the area.
An effective business retention and expansion program has significant benefits —the support and creation of new jobs, investments, and tax base. The Peoria County Business Park is a shining example of the EDC business retention program resulting in increased revenues for Peoria County. A retention visit to a local construction company in 1995 revealed the company’s business was suffering due to problems with accessibility and location confinements. Upon closer inspection, it became clear that several area businesses could benefit from relocation in an area with better accessibility and room for growth.
Working with county officials, EDC helped develop lots on land that had previously been bringing in just farm rental income. Three years later, the land brought in $1 million dollars in lot sales and added $5 million to the tax base.
Since then, the EDC has continued to build the retention/expansion program. Currently, the EDC’s retention program involves visiting area businesses to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the business environment.
This year’s program included retention calls to 177 companies throughout the tri-County area to gauge the needs of central Illinois business. Topics discussed ranged from public services evaluation, assistance requests, growth, investment forecasting, and workforce training, to union affiliation and emerging technology.
Reports analyzing the data from retention visits have been prepared for the City of Peoria and Woodford, Tazewell, and Peoria Counties. The reports are used extensively by EDC staff members.
Analysis of the data provides an early warning system for companies in trouble. The reports help us identify companies in need of assistance for expansion. They provide information on the competitive position of our community and demonstrate our pro-business climate. Because county officials also have access to the reports, the reports can be an invaluable channel of communication between local companies and community leadership.
The EDC is continuously looking for new businesses to participate in the business retention program. If your company is interested in participating, or if you have questions about the program and other programs of the EDC, please contact one of our staff members. IBI