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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