Economic Development 101

Economic development will continue to be a hot topic if debates during the recent municipal elections are any indication. Many candidates talked about attracting new businesses in a drive to create jobs, but few mentioned the critical need to support existing businesses.

Why is this a concern? Because investment attraction is just one part of a complete economic development strategy.

Communities like ours also need to help existing businesses thrive. In fact, it is easy to argue that Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) is at the heart of job creation.

The Economic Developers Association of Canada has many courses on the subject. Based on the work of numerous entrepreneurship and economic development think tanks it is now accepted in this field that for every 100 new jobs created in the private sector:

– 55 jobs will be created by the expansion of existing local businesses

– 44 jobs will created by new start?up companies

– 1 new job will be created by a “greenfield” corporate relocation.

(EDAC: Performance Measurement in Economic Development, 2011)

This doesn’t mean we should abandon investment attraction. These stats I provided look at job creation, not equally important challenges such as increasing a community’s tax base, for example. Nonetheless, it does show that BR&E deserves attention and support.

Locally, it’s clear that the Invest Medicine Hat team is working hard to bring investment to the city. However, it may not be as obvious which organizations are focusing on BR&E.

What does BR&E generally include? According to the Economic Developers Association of Alberta:

– Some type of Business Visitation Programs (BVPs)

– A program to outline ‘red flags,’ (issues or challenges to local businesses) and how to respond;

– Support to encourage an entrepreneurial and ‘pro-business’ environment of support for business;

– Provisions for business incubation and nurturing

– Summarizing the governments’ roles in BR&E programs

– Providing resources for supporting and sustaining business.

An organization that has taken on this role in Medicine Hat is Community Futures Entre Corp. Funded by the Federal Government to do community development, they have partnered with Alberta Innovates and the Medicine Hat College Entrepreneur Development Centre (EDC) to create a partnership that has streamlined resources for the benefit of business.

This partnership, formally known as APEX has a lengthy list of services for entrepreneurs at every stage, from start-up to redevelopment. To learn more I encourage you to go to

The MHC Entrepreneur Development Centre helps student and alumni bring their entrepreneurship dreams to life. We offer one-to-one coaching, training, mentorship and access to a diverse network of startup funding. To connect into our network emailedc@mhc.ab.caor call 403-502-8433.

Tracy Stroud is manager of business development at Medicine Hat College.