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Introducing Business Engage: A Proactive, Data-Informed Approach to BRE

May 6, 2019 by Meredith Metsker

Business retention and expansion (BRE) is the quiet heartbeat of economic development.

BRE programs aren’t flashy and may go unnoticed to the general public. But communities that engage their local companies and foster small business development usually have the healthiest economies—and are most attractive to outside companies.

As Bethany Williams of Lake County (IL) Partners said at the 2018 Emsi conference, “Only when you’re good at business retention should you focus on business attraction.”

But how do economic development organizations get good at business retention? How do they stay alert to expanding and at-risk companies in their backyard?

Emsi has been asking these and other questions to dozens of EDOs over the last year. We asked about their biggest challenges and tested prototypes to solve their real-world problems. Their insights helped shape the development of a new solution we are thrilled to announce:

Business Engage—an innovative new tool designed to help economic development professionals prioritize, monitor, and support their local businesses.

Prioritize, monitor, and support with Business Engage

With Business Engage, BRE professionals can:

Prioritize: Identify expanding or at-risk businesses with the Emsi Business Health Score, so they can quickly prioritize which businesses they should meet with.

Monitor: Track business health over time, so they can keep their finger on the pulse of their business community.

Support: Uncover business characteristics and pain points, so they walk into their meetings equipped with specific knowledge and actionable ideas.

A BRE strategy built on data

We designed Business Engage to streamline the BRE process, which can be notoriously ambiguous and overwhelming. The Emsi Business Health Score ranks all the businesses in every community on a scale of 0 to 100—where 0 is least healthy and 100 is most healthy. This can help economic developers spend less time figuring out who needs help and more time developing solutions for local businesses.

We built the Emsi Business Health Score on six business, industry, and regional variables that are highly correlated to job growth—including job posting activity and industry competitive effect. Business Engage also includes historical job posting activity so EDOs can track a business’ growth or decline over time.


Once they’ve identified a business of interest, EDOs can click on the business name and jump to our Business Snapshot. This report shows detailed information about businesses, including what kind of jobs they’re posting for, what skills they’re looking for, who their competition is, etc. Now, rather than just asking a business what it needs to succeed, an economic developer could offer personalized data and actionable suggestions.

Sign up for the webinar

To learn more about Business Engage and see a walk-through of the tool, sign up for our May 30 webinar. Emsi product manager Sheridan Benard will share practical examples and use cases and answer questions.


Contact Cara Christopher at cara.christopher@economicmodeling.com to learn more about the new software solution and hear the science behind the Emsi Business Health Score.

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