FORT SMITH — Van Buren area leaders attended a Business Retention & Expansion (BR&E) program training held April 23-24 at the Janet Huckabee Center in Fort Smith.

Hosted by Western Arkansas Planning & Development District (WAPDD) and facilitated by Business Retention & Expansion International (BREI), attendees gained valuable knowledge on approaches to business outreach and community inclusion.

During the conference, strategies were discussed to integrate the city supported business outreach project currently underway as part of ongoing economic development efforts to strengthen Van Buren’s economic position in the region.

In economic development, Business Retention & Expansion (BR&E) is a program designed to strengthen the connection between businesses and the community. It is a program focused on establishing or continuing open communication between business, which is the life blood of the community, and the people, who are the purpose and strength of the city, to stimulate growth.

BREI membership provides the opportunity to earn levels of certification and professional development in BR&E. This training and experience can then be put to use to assist in expanding local communities.

The training conference was hosted by WAPDD, and the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture-Research and Extension.

Training sessions were facilitated by practitioners from BREI, WAPDD, UAEX, AEDI and the City of Newport. BREI is a non-profit, professional association of economic development practitioners and educators committed to the advancement of business retention and expansion as a key economic development strategy.