If you haven’t heard the term ‘Economic Gardening’, a quick Google search will provide some background. It was an economic development professional in Littleton, Colorado name Chris Gibbons who first used the term in the late 1980’s.
The concept is as follows:
Focus the support of economic development on the existing businesses in your region that have the best chance of growth. They are likely ‘second stage’ businesses that have survived the startup phase and have 10 – 99 employees and have $1M to $50M in annual revenues.
The theory, which was later proven to be correct, is that there is a higher probability of growing good jobs by ‘watering and fertilizing the good plants that are already growing in our local garden’.
The alternative concept of either planting new seeds (startups) or transplanting from other gardens (encourage corporate relocations to the region) costs more money and has a higher risk of failure in the long-term. Thinking in terms of the garden, a number of the startup plants will die off and the transplanted plants will more likely pick up a transplant to another garden in another region.
I think it makes perfect sense to just take care of the local plants with a stable water supply, protection from bugs, fertilizer and some sunshine.
The research also suggests the focus be made towards businesses that are innovative and have a CEO with a specific ‘temperament type’. Based on his experience in Littleton Colorado, Chris Gibbons feels that unless the CEO had the right attributes, the probability of exponential growth was fairly unlikely.
Another success factor is like the amount of sunshine on the garden. It’s the ‘culture’ of the local community. Depending on the history of the community, it could have developed an ‘anti-entrepreneurial’ culture. Communities that had large commodity based industries, developed the ‘lowest price’ thinking which leave no room for experimenting and risks. Large corporations tend to be risk averse, so communities that were built around large corporations tend to be risk averse. The ‘sunshine’ for a growing and innovative business, is a community that understands and support the risks and challenges of entrepreneurial activities. A lot of communities ‘get it’ now and are working on changing their attitude and culture.
In every region there are local businesses with growth and employments opportunities that are ‘low hanging fruit’ (i.e good jobs). If we give our water and sunshine to these businesses, they will bear more low hanging fruit (more good jobs).