An entrepreneur-oriented approach to prosperity: grow from within


In contrast to relocation or startup initiatives, Economic Gardening® targets second-stage companies already operating in a community. It helps these existing businesses grow larger by assisting them with strategic issues and providing them with customized research.

Economic Gardening differs dramatically from traditional types of business assistance. It’s not about business plans, financial analysis or workforce development. Instead, researchers assist in  five key buckets: core strategy, market dynamics, qualified sales leads, innovation and temperament. Within these areas, Economic Gardening specialists leverage sophisticated corporate databases, geographic information systems, SEO and Web marketing tools to help second-stagers:

  • Identify market trends, potential competitors and unknown resources.
  • Map geographic areas for targeted
  • Raise visibility in search engine results and increase web traffic
  • Track websites, blogs and online communities to better understand competitors as well as current and potential customers.
  • Refine their core strategy and sustainable competitive advantage.
History of Economic Gardening

Economic Gardening traces its roots back to 1987 in Littleton, Colorado, when missile manufacturer Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin) cut its workforce in half, which resulted in 7,500 lost jobs and 1 million square feet of vacant real estate. In response, Chris Gibbons, Littleton’s director of business and industry affairs, began to implement his version of Economic Gardening, working with local companies to create new jobs in lieu of recruiting, incentives or tax rebates. 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.

To help other communities implement his approach, Gibbons founded the National Center for Economic Gardening (NCEG) and partnered with the Edward Lowe Foundation in 2011 to host the center. Since then, NCEG has helped establish Economic Gardening programs in more than 25 states.

Quick Program Guide

Programs Summary
Introductory Course Whether it’s understanding the philosophy, principles and tools of Economic
Gardening, or how to start a program in your area, there’s a lot to learn. Our virtual
introductory course, which is a requirement for organizations contracting with us, is a great place to start.
Launching a Pilot Program The best way to decide if Economic Gardening is right for your organization is to launch a
pilot program.With a requirement of only five second-stage companies, Pilot
Programs minimize risk and give you direct insight into the process and results.
Certification and Training The majority of Economic Gardening programs utilize our National Strategic
Research Team (NSRT) for their company engagements. If you’re interested in joining the NSRT or just want to take a deeper dive into the philosophy and tools of
Economic Gardening, learn more about our certification and training.

Impressive outcomes

Economic Gardening programs have demonstrated a much lower cost per job created than incentive-based or relocation strategies. For example, in Rochester, New York, 20 companies participated in a regional pilot program and created 117 new jobs, which translated into a cost of $1,700 per jobs. Click   here to find out more about program results.

Granted, job creation and revenue growth are important goals of Economic Gardening, but there are other benefits:

  • Gaining greater relevancy with growth companies. Second-stage entrepreneurs are a skeptical audience and tune out many economic development entities. Yet their perspective changes dramatically after an Economic Gardening engagement, and entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) become a trusted source for these growth companies.
  • Scaling ESO efforts. For example, spending 10 hours with a startup company might lead to the creation of one new job and a $50,000 loan. Yet the same amount of time with a second-stager could add another $1 million to their sales and result in five new jobs within a few months. There’s also the opportunity to refer Economic Gardening clients into other existing programs.
  • Strengthening staff skills. Economic Gardening administrators, team leaders, and research specialists are required to go through extensive training at the NCEG. Participants say this training benefits them beyond Economic Gardening engagements as many principles can be used with other clients.
  • Strenthening roots of growth entrepreneurs. Although second-stagers are typically dedicated corporate citizens to begin with, participants tell us Economic Gardening engagements have increased their commitment to their communities.

Bottom line, Economic Gardening helps establish a strong entrepreneurial culture that is critical to company, industry, and regional and statewide growth.

Companion Documents

Document Download View
Economic Gardening Overview

EG Outcomes

CEOs: Getting Started

CEOs: Understanding EG

ESOs: Understanding EG


Case Studies

What people are saying ...

“As a business owner, it’s easy to criticize the government and grumble about all the taxes we pay. Yet this program made me feel better. Because the city of Memphis decided to invest in an Economic Gardening program, I’m getting something back that will make us a stronger company.”


— Jim Hoffa, owner of West Tennessee Ornamental Door
Economic Gardening Team