CREC Project News and Updates

Join the 2022 National BR|E Benchmarking Challenge!

February 1, 2022
We heard you… Summer is not the time for the BR|E Benchmarking. Many of you focus on a spring visit schedule. Therefore, the 2022 National BR|E Benchmarking Challenge will be held March 1 – May 15, covering 60 business days. The goal of the Benchmarking Challenge is to set national and hopefully regional benchmarks for critical issues we discuss in business retention. Issues like workforce, employment recovery, business growth, plans to expand, growth barriers, and community issues.

These benchmarks are vital to our understanding of local issues. They provide context. CREC in association with C2ER,  Business Retention and Expansion International (BREI), and the Synchronist User Community are continuing the national benchmarking project; with YOUR help. Our goal is to interview 2,000 primary (or ‘traded’) sector business executives to gauge the health of our most important community assets, primary sector businesses and the challenges they face.

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Join the Challenge

2000 Primary Sector Executive Interviews

Include your community in this vitally important research!

Be one of 100 geographically dispersed organizations conducting 20 interviews each, generating the executive responses needed to set solid BR|E benchmarks for the critical existing business and community support issues.

Registration Deadline: March 1, 2022

Examples of benchmarks: Supply chain, workforce recruitment challenges, business life cycle, plans to expand, barriers to expansion, community services and infrastructure, etc. 2022 benchmarks as well as comparisons with 2021 benchmarks.

Target interviews: Primary sector companies (companies that do business in multiple states, nationally and/or internationally.

Participants: Economic Development Organizations, Chambers of Commerce, Government agencies, Public utilities, etc. In short, any organization engaged in BR|E executive interviews.

Process: Primary sector executive interviews are conducted using the Synchronist Suite interview tool between March 1st and May 15th. Participants will be given access to the Synchronist software (no fee) to input the results of their interviews before the May 15th deadline.

Participants will be able to download their interview results at will during the Challenge.

Report: All data will be pulled on May 18th for tabulation, analysis, and reporting. All participants with 20 interviews or more will get a full copy of the confidential benchmark report. The report will be released at the Business Retention and Growth Conference (BRAG), June, 14-16, 2022.

Benefits: Inform, educate leadership (context for local results), Get full National Challenge Benchmark Report, obtain free access to Synchronist for data input and reporting, enhance your public brand and local business engagement with pre and post press releases (samples provided).

Demonstrate your BR|E Prowess: Awards and Recognition*

BEST INDIVIDUAL EFFORT – 1st $250 Visa Gift Card and 2nd $150 Visa Gift Cards

BEST TEAM EFFORT – 1st $400 Visa Gift Card and 2nd $200 Visa Gift Cards

BEST STATE and BEST REGIONAL Effort – 1st and 2nd place winners

BEST SPONSOR AWARD – 1st and 2nd place winners


The Benchmark Report and Analysis will be provided free to all qualified participants.

The benchmarks will be set using the aggregate information collected by you and your economic development peers across the US. All interviewers will use the standardized Synchronist interview tool that has been tested and proven effective. Aggregate data will be captured at the end of the project period to set a range of 25 to 30 national benchmarks on business as well as community performance. If the footprint of data supports it, regional benchmarks will also be set.


The Challenge is open to any organization involved in economic development

  1. Complete 20 or more one-on-one executive interviews using the standard Synchronist interview in 60 business days (March 1st to May 15th).
  2. Input responses online via free access to Synchronist during the Challenge.

Synchronist Link

Blane, Canada Ltd.


What is BR|E?

BR|E is the abbreviation for Business Retention and Expansion. A foundational program in a comprehensive economic development strategy.

The Challenge goal is 20 executive interviews per participating organization. Is that there a limit on the number of interviews we can conduct?

No, there is no limit on the number of executive interviews you can conduct; however, there is a time limit for data entry which is May 15th.

Confidentiality. Is our data confidential?

Yes. Every participant will have an independent database and login within the Synchronist software. Your data will not be available to anyone outside your group/organization. For the study, the data will only be used in aggregate for national and perhaps, if data is available, for regional benchmarks. Care will be taken to preserve the confidentiality of data for all participants as it has been for Synchronist users for 20+ years.

Why Benchmark BR|E?

Everyone is saying employers have a workforce availability problem right now. But what does that really mean? And how do we translate that into local action?

What statement is more likely to get action?

  1. The CEO of the EDC says we need a workforce recruitment program.
  2. It seems like all of our employers are telling us they are having trouble getting employees?
  3. Our business retention interviews tell us that 30% or our employers are having serious problems recruiting employees here.
  4. When compared to our regional and national peers, we have a serious worker recruitment problem. When business executives rank workforce availability, we have the fewest positive rankings. Local 1.6:1; Regional 3.25:1 and National 4:1.
  5. This graphic shows our competitive challenge with workforce recruitment.

Local BR|E executive interview results can tell you if you have a problem, box on graph. But only benchmark data can tell you if that problem that rises to the level of a competitive advantage/disadvantage.

In the graphic, we look at the ratio of executives giving the community a high-ranking for workforce availability (5, 6, 7; highly available) vs a low ranking (1, 2, 3) for one community: National 4:1; Regional 3.25:1 and Local 1.6:1 (51% gave a high ranking while 30% gave a low ranking). By showing the local benchmark with regional and national peers it becomes absolutely clear this community has a significant workforce challenge or competitive dis advantage.

Every community has a number for every question asked. The Challenge will give the workforce problem – and other business/community issues – a meaning with up-to-the-minute, contextual information you can use to influence leadership and maximize your program’s impact.

Benchmark Layers and Examples

At minimum, each participant will have national and local benchmarks. The national benchmarks will be provided in a report available to all qualified participants. If participation/data supports it, the report could also include additional benchmark layers:

  • Regional
  • Rural and Urban

Examples of benchmarks include essentially, every answer to every question on the guide as well as sub-part. Our working group will ultimately decide which ones make the report. The following represent over 30 benchmarks and are those most often requested by Synchronist users over the years.

  • Company life cycle status
  • Workforce: Availability, Quality, Stability, and Productivity
  • Workforce recruitment problems
  • Workforce skill gaps
  • Plans to expand
  • Room to expand
  • Real estate requirements (new)
  • Supply chain disruptions (new)
  • Barriers to growth
  • Utility services
  • Community services

How do I sell this to my existing business (BR|E) or leadership team?

As with any BR|E program, the focus is on building and reinforcing relationships with critical existing business executives. The Challenge is an opportunity to:

  1. First, benchmarks are invaluable for influencing decisions and allocating resources to maximize the impact of available.
  2. If your organization has a business retention program, they may not be aware of the Challenge. Making them aware may be all it takes.
  3. If your organization has a structured program with a specific interview guide, the questions may be different, but many will be similar. Therefore, many of the benchmarks should be relevant to your historic data as well as the fresh Challenge data.
  4. If your organization has not had a business retention program, this is a simple, no risk way to try one.
  5. Use the Challenge months to accelerate business engagement in your community.

How will the benchmarks help if we have historically used a different interview guide?

Many of the questions on the Synchronist Prime interview are commonly used questions asked by many economic development organizations. The wording may be slightly different, but the focus is similar. Therefore, the benchmarks generated by the BR|E  Challenge should also be relevant to your historic data, not just the results of the 20 Challenge interviews. The Synchronist Prime interview can be downloaded and reviewed.

Can I recruit partners for the BR|E Challenge?

Yes, you can recruit partners to be involved in the BR|E Challenge. There are two types of partners.

  • Inside partners would be individuals from your own staff, interns, or volunteers. You can give them a login to your dataset to add companies, contacts, or input data from executive interviews.
  • External partners would be individuals in other economic development organizations in your region (a multi-community or county area). External partners could participate as an independent Challenge organization and they would have their own, separate login and data set to ensure confidentiality. Then, at the end of the Challenge, partners in your region could combine results (we can help) to see the benchmarks within your region for another level of comparison. (Note: There are 2 awards for recruiting external partners to work together in this fashion.)

We do not normally interview business executive interviews. Can we still participate?

Absolutely! Any organization involved in economic development is eligible to participate. Experience is not required. There is no cost.

How will we be trained on the Synchronist Suite software for data entry?

Live training sessions will be offered to all participants. The live sessions will be recorded and recordings will be made available. In addition, there will be short how-to videos aids on key topics. All recordings will be available via the Synchronist Help menu. Finally, you will also have access to live assistance when needed.

Why Prime businesses only and not Main Street too? Main Street is hurting?

Main Street businesses and Primary sector businesses have different risk, growth, and value drivers. These business dynamics are critical to understanding the drivers of a specific company and their needs from the community. Therefore, in Synchronist we have always separated these interview guides to drill down into the important issues of each sector.

Yes, Main Street firms are hurting, but the community drivers for most communities are the primary sector companies which draw new money into the community. They are also at different stages of post-COVID recovery. Therefore, it makes sense to focus on Prime first.

And finally, only in our 2nd year, the National BR|E Benchmarking Challenge, it is important to keep it simple. Focusing on one sector helps minimize the confusion for participants and organizers. Main Street can come later if we are successful with the Prime Challenge.

What is a Prime company?

Prime is short-hand for primary sector business. A primary sector company does at least 51% of their business in multiple states, nationally, or globally or sells product into the supply chain for these companies. Primary sector companies include service as well as manufacturing companies. Headquarters, back office, insurance, media, software companies can be prime companies. The deciding factor is where the product or service is sold/used.

What is a Main Street business?

A Main Street business is a business that sells to individuals who live in or travel through a trade area. Main Street businesses include: accommodations, food & beverage, retail, tourism, convention, entertainment, recreation, and local services are examples.

What about State and Federal government, large health care, college and universities? Are they Prime or Main Street?

State, federal, colleges and universities all draw money into the community from outside the community. Their workforce challenges are more like those of a manufacturing company. Therefore, they can be considered Prime companies for the purpose of the Challenge interviews.

Can I see the interview form before we commit to the BR|E Benchmarking Challenge?

Absolutely! The Synchronist Prime interview is being redesigned for 2022 to remove COVID and move on to more important issues. The guide will soon be available to be downloaded and reviewed as soon as it is available.

How do I load company and contact data?

Companies can be loaded with as little as 5 required fields. Date, Company Type (Prime), Name, Zip Code, NAICS. Contacts have only 2 required fields, First and Last name. That is everything needed to record an executive interview.

How should I select the 20 companies to be interviewed in my community?

You should select important, economic driver companies. The list frequently includes: largest employers, fastest growing companies, best paying companies, and highly recognized companies. Companies should be from a mix of 4 or 5 subset such as, manufacturing, distribution, food processing, insurance, construction. Therefore, it would not necessarily be your top 20 employers. Having a mix will give you a good cross section of your primary sector business base. That will result in responses that are characteristic of the business community, not just a single or limited perspective of the business issues.

To complete 20 executive interviews, we recommend you begin with a list of 50 companies. Some will not be available within the time-frame of the Challenge. Having others in the queue will make it easier to be successful.

Powered By Synchronist Suite software?

As noted, the software platform is provided free to all participants during the challenge period. And, the challenge data is yours to keep for your use.

Synchronist PRIME® provides a powerful anchor for a business development organization’s existing industry program, customer service tracking, expansion management, as well as business attraction prospect management. It gives your organization absolute control over existing business information. PLUS, it puts you in a leadership position to manage your community’s economic portfolio. The Synchronist approach fundamentally increases the value of the business retention program by 50% (35.7% average ROI increased to 85.7% average ROI) without a change in process or increase in effort. Specialized for the economic development functions, Synchronist API’s allow data to be shared seamlessly with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, and other CRMs when needed for leadership or regional partners.

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