February 25, 2019  After working together for 14 years to offer the Economic Gardening program, the Edward Lowe Foundation and the National Center for Economic Gardening are no longer working together to offer this nationally recognized program.  The NCEG has chosen to find another host for the program.  The Edward Lowe Foundation and NCEG will continue to fulfill and honor any existing contracts but all future Economic Gardening activities will be offered by NCEG, the future host of the program. The Edward Lowe Foundation will continue offer its suite of services programs to second stage companies. Both the Edward Lowe Foundation and NCEG wish to thank all of those that have participated in Economic Gardening programs during the past 14 years and for the meaningful impact that they have had in their communities.

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.

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.
  • Strengthening 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

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Economic Gardening Overview

EG Outcomes

CEOs: Getting Started

CEOs: Understanding EG

ESOs: Understanding EG


Case Studies