We first came across the term economic gardening via the Strong Towns podcast. The discussion was centered around Littleton, Colorado and their quest to build “a great community in which to live, work and play.” In 1987, “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… and tripled sales tax revenue.“
Economic Gardening 101
Economic Gardening comes from the Edward Lowe Foundation. It is an economic concept which builds support for “second stage” companies which may need a little more time to reach their maturity. Investing in these companies sets an economic foundation within the community by creating jobs and access to external markets, which brings money into the community. While it does take time for the benefits to truly come to fruition, the long-term payoff for the community is profound. To read more about economic gardening, follow this link.
The Edward Lowe program has expanded into the National Center for Economic Gardening with partnerships in various states. Companies can apply for assistance via this website. These programs seek to provide the following assistance:
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.
Will economic gardening work in your town? Yes. First, do your research by following the links in this post. Second, find out if an economic gardening center exists in your state by following this link. If your state does not have a program, seek out the companies in your community which are second stage. Help them get engaged in the community and help others understand the importance of local business. Lastly, understand your community’s economic plan and reach out to your elected officials, help them understand how important it is to invest in local business. Local business is far more important than bringing in outside business.