Economic gardening is a hot topic in economic development practice, and it is not just another passing fad. The idea originated in Littleton, Colorado over 20 years ago.
The program is based on the premise that economies are best grown internally by nurturing high growth firms. Economic gardening has seen a significant amount of success and gained national attention. Economic gardening programs have been implemented in numerous other communities, both large and small; urban and rural. The state of Florida has also adopted this concept as part of a statewide economic growth strategy.
Since 1987 the Littleton job base grew from 15,000 to over 30,000. Their sales tax base expanded from $6 million to over $20 million. In that time, the community has not recruited a single company or spent a penny on incentive packages.
The foundations of economic gardening as a new approach to economic development were built carefully using the best business and economic research and engaging many of the top minds working both in the business world and academia. At its core, economic gardening focuses on the idea that economies are driven by entrepreneurial growth.
From an economic development organization perspective, economic gardening uses three basic rules to support businesses in any given community: providing information, development of infrastructure supporting an entrepreneurial eco-system, and nurturing connections and networks that are critical to business success. In the focus on Stage II companies, the economic development organization must think and act differently in helping businesses use very sophisticated tools including the following:
geographic information systems
search engine optimization
social media and research tools
Economic gardening also focuses on front-end strategic issues of businesses, such as
teamwork and human resources
Economic gardening is not a quick fix-- it is not a silver bullet. It is a long-term strategy. It is a lifestyle change rather than a fad diet.
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