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For many years, community leaders’ primary approach to growing their local economy has been through industrial attraction, looking for a large employer that wanted to move to their community. Some cities, towns, counties and regions have started to realize that there are other strategies to grow their economy—helping their existing businesses grow. In some communities, this approach has become known as Economic Gardening, an entrepreneurial approach to economic development. It assumes that an economy can be grown from the inside when local companies grow. To help companies grow, the community provides sophisticated information and services that improve the natural entrepreneurial process. Economic Gardening was created in Littleton, Colorado, in 1987 where over the next two decades Littleton more than doubled jobs (a time when its population only increased by 23 percent) and tripled sales tax revenue.
A group of economic development partners in Indiana has launched the Indiana Purdue Economic Gardening program to learn from and adapt the Littleton, Colorado, program. The business growth services are available to “second-stage” companies. Research and experience have demonstrated that these companies often have the potential for growth but can face some significant barriers, some of which programs like Economic Gardening can help address. These second-stage companies are defined as follows:
Companies selected to participate in the Economic Gardening program receive strategic research and technical assistance from skilled professionals from Purdue University and partnering organizations in the following areas:
The Economic Gardening process is divided into five phases. Companies work closely with an assigned team leader from Purdue who guides the company through the process of identifying strategic data to address the growing company’s needs.
• Launch: Discovery Call
Get acquainted with your assigned Economic Gardening information about the company’s history and goals.
• Strategize: Team Call
Meet with the professional staff who will conduct the market research, digital marketing, and geospatial analysis and collaborate on identifying a strategy that will meet your company’s unique needs.
• Learn: Check in Call
Discuss with the team leader what research has provided the most insights so far and decide on the final steps for strategic research.
• Implement: Close Out Call
Identify a plan for applying the research across your company to sustain growth.
• Measure: Collect Data
Touch base about your company’s progress after six months. Continue the dialogue during an annual review for the first three years.
Your involvement with the team typically lasts eight to 10 weeks. In total, you can expect to spend approximately 10 hours of your time collaborating with the team.
The Economic Gardening package can be provided at a flat fee of $4,200. This fee for services is generally found to be lower than a traditional consulting firm would be able to provide. It is encouraged that your company seek financial support from your local economic development organization.
The Economic Gardening team partners with Indiana’s local or regional economic development organizations (LEDOs and REDOs), chambers of commerce and other groups to deliver these services. Those interested in more information about making this valuable program available to their second-stage companies can connect with the program through the Purdue Center for Regional Development staff who can provide technical assistance and coaching in setting up the program and are also available to talk with LEDO/REDO boards, industry groups or anyone else in the local or regional community who could benefit from hearing about this exciting program for growing our Indiana economy.
To apply for the Economic Gardening program or learn about Purdue Extension’s role in the Economic Gardening program, contact:
Emily Del Real