Economic Gardening is an economic development model based on the concept that local businesses, rather than large corporations, drive economies. Instead of focusing on recruitment, the economic gardening model seeks to create jobs by supporting existing companies in a community. In a nutshell, the goal of Economic Gardening is to connect entrepreneurs to resources, infrastructure and information to ensure they are afforded the same opportunities to grow as large companies.
It’s a term that’s becoming increasingly popular and for good reason. And though it has a more formalized title now, it’s really something that chambers of commerce have been doing for a long time to help grow their communities. Though your organization may not have a defined Economic Gardening program, chances are that your chamber of commerce is already embracing and implementing the idea of Economic Gardening by focusing on supporting the existing businesses in your community. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including but not limited to: referrals, networking, legislative affairs and assistance with a number of city, state and federal resources.
– Referrals: Provide introductions to assist businesses in securing customers, contacts and debt/equity
– Networking: Encourage or facilitate business-to-business networking opportunities that connect entrepreneurs and existing companies
– Legislative affairs: Assist with legislative issues that small businesses may not be able to take on to ensure their voice is heard
– Resources: Be the conduit to city, state and federal information and services that are typically prohibitive due to cost or time involved
While recruiting new businesses is an important part of a chamber’s success, the fundamentals of Economic Gardening relate back to supporting existing businesses with the tools and research necessary to further growth and development, which are typically off-limits to smaller businesses. I’d encourage you to evaluate what your organization is doing to retain and grow local businesses – it really does play a vital role in economic development and your efforts will strengthen your community.