Spearheaded by the Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute (RDI), the new Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) pilot project aims to help Columbia Basin communities better understand the needs of local business and the challenges they face.
A collaboration of the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) and Selkirk College, the RDI was formed in the fall of 2010 with the goal of supporting informed planning and decision making in the Columbia Basin through region-specific information and applied research. BR+E, the first major project from the RDI, focuses on addressing the needs of businesses already in a community, encouraging them to stay (retain) or grow (expand). This, in turn, affects job creation and the economic health of the community. Several groups in the area have come forward to test the project, including the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation, the Kootenay Association of Science and Technology (KAST) and the Kootenay-Rockies Innovation Council.
Through the three-year pilot project, which will begin in 2012, the RDI will offer research and training support to communities interested in undertaking BR+E initiatives. The RDI will work in partnership with varying groups—from local governments and chambers of commerce to the BC Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation—to gather information from local businesses, enter data into the web application BC Business Counts for which RDI has purchased a Basin-wide license, analyze the data and offer follow-up support to businesses.
The project’s region-wide approach will allow the Columbia Basin as a whole to identify and respond to shared challenges that are important in areas with limited resources or community capacity. It will also allow the information to feed into the State of the Basin Initiative, which monitors and reports on social, environmental, economic and cultural indicators and trends in the Basin. The State of the Basin data is expected to be available online in June 2012 at www.cbrdi.ca.