Retaining Local Businesses

Employment is a hot topic and one that attracts a lot of funding to support initiatives able to deliver sustainable employment for local people. So naturally, we should all be looking to invite new businesses to move into our town centres, right?


Perhaps not. Studies of North America consistently show up to 80% of net new job growth comes from existing businesses, so your local partnership could consider adopting a Business Expansion and Retention Programme (BEAR) to look into the local priorities of business owners, addressing these through a working group of key stakeholders (local authority officers, blue light services, public transport and service operators and so on).


The BEAR principles are simple to follow; identify the needs of your local business community (this is best done through face to face visits and short questionnaires); pull together a group capable of answering those needs quickly; build on these partnerships to expand the range of priorities that can be addressed, both short and long-term; integrate this approach into the management of your town centre and watch your local businesses benefit from a coherent economic development strategy focusing on developing what you have, rather than chasing who you don't yet have.


By focusing on existing business and following BEAR principles, you can:

  • Get quick results by immediately fixing urgent problems of local businesses

  • Promote your local economy by measuring trends (ie. jobs retained)

  • Develop a strategic economic development plan for your area

  • Bring local delivery partners together and work more effectively


The Association of Town & City Management can offer more detailed support in developing your own BEAR programme.