Economic Gardening

Economic gardening takes an entrepreneurial approach to regional prosperity. Often referred to as a “grow from within” strategy, it helps existing companies within a community grow larger. In contrast to traditional business assistance, economic gardening focuses on strategic growth challenges, such as developing new markets, refining business models and gaining access to competitive intelligence. Economic gardening specialists help CEOs identify which issues are hindering their growth and then leverage sophisticated tools to deliver insights and information that CEOs can apply immediately.

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  • Get Smarter

    Driven by the National Center for Economic Gardening (NCEG), Economic Gardening is a “grow from within” strategy targeting existing growth companies and offering them critical strategic information that is customized to their needs. This information can be key to propelling the company to its next phase of growth. Statistics from the Network Kansas Economic Gardening pilot program of 28 companies cited that those companies grew revenues by an increase of 26.9% and jobs by an increase of 29% after their Economic Gardening engagement.

    Organizations often confuse Economic Gardening principles with traditional economic development tactics. Gardening is not about connecting entrepreneurs with support institutions or helping them with their operations, workforce development or tax credits. It is about leveraging research using sophisticated business intelligence tools and databases that growth companies either aren’t aware of or cannot afford. Research specialists typically assist in four key areas: strategic market research, geographic information systems, search engine optimization and social media marketing. Examples of how specialists help companies include:

    • Identify market trends, potential competitors and unknown resources
    • Map geographic areas for targeted marketing
    • Raise visibility in search engine results and increased web traffic
    • Track websites, blogs and online communities to better understand competitors and current and potential customers
    • Make informed decisions on core strategies and the business model

    The virtual model, using trained specialists and team leaders, enables time-crunched CEOs to participate in an Economic Gardening network without ever leaving their offices. The programs are hosted by Entrepreneur Support Organizations on a local, regional or statewide level and are licensed through the NCEG, operated by the Edward Lowe Foundation.

    Economic Gardening originated in Littleton, Colo. in the 1980s under the direction of Chris Gibbons, then director of the city’s business and industry affairs and now CEO of the NCEG. During the 20-year period Littleton practiced Economic Gardening, jobs grew from 15,000 to 30,000, and sales tax revenue more than tripled from $6M to $21M without any recruiting, incentives or tax rebates.

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  • Why It’s Important

    Centered on second-stage businesses — those that have advanced beyond the startup phase with the intent to grow even larger — Economic Gardening has powerful and far-reaching payoffs.

    With typically 10-99 employees and revenue from $1M to $50M, second-stage companies are not only significant job creators, but often have national or global markets, which means they bring outside dollars into the community. Between 1995 and 2012, second-stage companies represented only 11.6 percent of U.S. establishments, but generated nearly 34.5 percent of jobs and about 34.5 percent of sales, according to

    Supporting these growth entrepreneurs means positive payoffs when it comes to economic growth and prosperity. Economic Gardening also provides a key balance between company attraction and small business support, and growing from within and supporting existing second-stage businesses.

    There are key benefits for the Entrepreneur Support Organization that develops an Economic Gardening program, including becoming a trusted source for growth companies, developing partnerships with key stakeholders, and the opportunity to develop a host of follow-on programs, as well as the chance to refer Economic Gardening clients into other existing programs.

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

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  • Implement Programs

    Introductory Course

    Whether it’s understanding the philosophy, principles and tools or how to start a program in your area, there’s a lot to learn about Economic Gardening. That’s why we developed a virtual course that hits the high points. It’s a great place to learn more and it’s required for organizations contracting with the National Center. Get started with our Introductory Course.

    Launching a Pilot Program

    The best way to decide if Economic Gardening is right for you 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 the National Strategic Research Team (NSRT) for their company engagements. If you have an interest in joining the NSRT or just want to take a deeper dive into the philosophy and tools of Economic Gardening, you’ll want to know more about Certification and Training.

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What People are Saying

This program is exceptional in that it takes a team of highly trained business developers and makes them available to me as additional staff on loan for my own research into competition, markets and offerings to expand my business capabilities. The efficiency of these program hours and the results of their research have saved invaluable time for me and my staff, better enabling us to target growth opportunities with a well defined and strategic set of data
Missy Rogers, president of Noble Plastics

Economic Gardening Team

  • Colleen Killen-Roberts

    Colleen Killen-Roberts

    As General Manager for Economic Gardening Colleen is your go to person for starting a program in your area. Contact Colleen.

  • Penny Lewandowski

    Penny Lewandowski

    With experience in entrepreneur support, Penny comes in with just the right mix of gravitas and fun. Contact Penny.

  • melissa

    Melissa Phillips

    In her role as Project Manager, Phillips serves as the connecting point between entrepreneurs and the NSRT throughout their Economic Gardening engagement. Contact Melissa.

"As a general rule, a flat tire sure slows down the other three. "
— Edward Lowe