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Change often begins at the edges. It starts with just one voice — one idea that makes a difference. “Penny on the Edge” champions those who are willing to go first and challenges readers to think differently about how we grow our economies. This means understanding the intersection of entrepreneurship and economic development, along with the need to balance grow-from-within and traditional recruiting strategies. My intention is to provide ideas and support, make you laugh, and sometimes even annoy you as together we drive change from the edges.

Mom always liked you best: Why second-stage entrepreneurs need your love

“You like Trevor better than me!” lamented my neighbor’s daughter as she compared her mother’s love for her and her brother. I can tell you for a fact this is not true. My neighbor is a fabulous mom who showers love and affection on both of her children.

show your love-aquaBut unfortunately this is not always the case when it comes to how communities respond to their established entrepreneurs. Several years ago I met with a group of growth-company CEOs to learn what they needed to succeed. Since I was meeting with their region’s entrepreneur support organizations the next day, I asked them if they had a message I could deliver. Without exception, the message was “You don’t pay attention to us.” One by one, they told the story of their region’s fascination with startups and incentive-based recruitment. Their accomplishments went unnoticed, they struggled for any type of public support, and they agreed that most of their peers felt the same way.

Data from YourEconomy.org, a research tool from the University of Wisconsin, tells us that second-stage companies (10-99 employees with revenues between $1 million and $50 million) represented 17 percent of all U.S. companies between 2005 and 2015, but generated 37.2 percent of all jobs and 36.7 percent of sales. Like strong-willed children, these companies are sometimes more difficult to reach and often don’t think they need your help. But communities who choose to ignore them are playing a perilous game since they are your most sustainable job creators.

Show them the love and your companies will make it worth your while by growing even more and lifting the region’s prosperity. Plus, they’ll pay it forward by getting involved in the community and making a difference. But if you choose to ignore them, don’t be miffed when you need their support and they don’t respond. And be prepared to wave good-bye when another region decides to lure them to greener pastures.

In a future blog, we’ll talk about ways to show your love. In the meantime, hug a growth company today. They may initially think you’re weird, but remember — change comes from the edges. One hug at a time.

Penny Lewandowski
A thought leader in entrepreneurship and building an entrepreneurial culture, Penny Lewandowski is senior consultant of external relations at the Edward Lowe Foundation. She is a frequent speaker on new ways to think about economic development – especially how a grow-from-within strategy leads to thriving and sustainable economies. To send Penny comments,   click here.

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