Reflections on the Ideal Economic Gardening Audience

By Christine Hamilton-Pennell
Growing Local Economies, Inc.
Updated December 21, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the best target audience for an economic gardening program, particularly in smaller or more rural regions. Over the past several years, I have worked with hundreds of small businesses, helped communities around the country implement their economic gardening projects, reviewed numerous research reports on entrepreneurs, collaborated with Don Macke of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, and learned from Chris Gibbons at the City of Littleton. I have concluded that EG programs have three main criteria they can use to determine their target audience: company size (e.g., number of employees and/or revenues), company age, and company growth factors—or a combination of these criteria.

After reviewing all the evidence, I believe I have identified the “sweet spot”—the ideal target audience for most EG programs. First, let’s look at some facts about each of the three criteria.

Company Size

YourEconomy.org, a website created by the Edward Lowe Foundation, reports data on the composition and growth of the business universe in the United States over time. I checked my analysis of these figures and my conclusions with the staff at YourEconomy.

In this database, resident companies are broken out by stage:

Self-employed (one employee)
Stage 1 (2-9 employees)
Stage 2 (10-99 employees)
Stage 3 (100-499 employees)
Stage 4 (500+ employees)

The data reveal some interesting facts that are pertinent to choosing a target audience for an economic gardening program.

First of all, during the period from 2000-2008 (the period for which figures are reported in YourEconomy.org), Stage 3 and Stage 4 companies across the U.S. as a whole experienced net losses, both in the number of resident establishments and net new jobs. I don’t know anyone who disputes the fact that even during the best of times, the job creation rate across the majority of Stage 3 and 4 firms has been around zero for many years, and losses have only accelerated during this current recession. One exception reported in the literature (Stangler and Litan) indicates that the oldest and largest firms (10,000+ employees), still produce positive employment growth.

Current wisdom in the economic gardening world is that most of the high-growth companies are found in the Stage 2 group. This may very well be true, but this does not mean that targeting this group as a whole is more productive. The data in YourEconomy.org from 2000 to 2008 do not seem to support this conclusion. During that period of time Stage 2 companies across the U.S. averaged 10.6 percent of all resident establishments and contributed 2.0 percent of net new jobs. During the period from 2006 to 2008, the percentage of Stage 2 establishments fell to 7.7 percent of resident establishments, and they contributed to a loss of -1.9 percent of net new jobs.

By contrast, from 2006 to 2008, the self-employed (nonemployers) and Stage 1 companies taken together represented almost 91 percent of all resident establishments and created virtually 100 percent of net new jobs.

A significant factor to take into account is the “churn” characteristic of nonemployer and Stage 1 companies. A large number of these firms start or expand each year, creating a substantial number of the net new jobs, but a large number also shrink or close, eliminating a percentage of the jobs. In fact, fewer than 50 percent of new firms still exist after five years. Nevertheless, the net effect on job creation is overwhelmingly positive.

Many EG programs have discovered that providing extensive services to early Stage 1 companies and nonemployers (“aspiring” entrepreneurs or those in the planning stages) is not very productive in terms of job growth. The exception is when the planned business start-up has high potential to become a growth company.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, it appears that using company size alone as a criterion for selecting a target EG audience does not guarantee the greatest economic growth for a community.

Company Age

In the recent Kauffman report, Where Will the Jobs Come From?, authors Litan and Stangler analyze Census data, which reveals that two-thirds of new job growth comes from companies that are between one and five years old. Job creation comes from three sources: startups; young firms, ages one to five; and the largest and oldest companies. Taking into account the “churn” mentioned in the section above among the youngest companies, i.e., job creation and destruction, as well as the dynamic interaction between the youngest and oldest firms, they reach the following conclusion:

“…new and young companies and the entrepreneurs that create them are the engines of job creation and eventual economic recovery. The distinction of firm age, not necessarily size, as the driver of job creation has many implications, particularly for policymakers who are focusing on small business as the answer to a dire employment situation.”(http://www.kauffman.org/research-and-policy/where-will-the-jobs-come-from.aspx)

Another study by NBER, Who Creates Jobs? Small vs. Large vs. Young, supports this conclusion. The authors’ main finding is that “once we control for firm age there is no systematic relationship between firm size and growth. Our findings highlight the important role of business startups and young businesses in U.S. job creation. Business startups contribute substantially to both gross and net job creation. In addition, we find an ‘up or out’ dynamic of young firms. These findings imply that it is critical to control for and understand the role of firm age in explaining U.S. job creation.”

Company Growth

The most important criteria to consider when selecting an ideal EG target audience is the growth companies in the mix. From the time of David Birch’s seminal research studies in the 1980s—in which he first coined the term “gazelles”—to the present, research has conclusively shown that a small number of high-growth companies create the majority of new job growth. These companies are buried within the universe of existing companies and are the ones that break away from the pack and create an extraordinary number of jobs, as indicated in a recent report from the Kauffman Foundation.

High-Growth Firms and the Future of the American Economy shows that the top-performing one percent of firms generates roughly 40 percent of new jobs. The “average” company in the U.S. economy creates roughly two or three jobs per years, whereas the “average” company in this top-performing one percent contributes 88 jobs per year. And fast-growing young firms, while they represent less than one percent of all companies, create roughly 10 percent of all new jobs in any given year, or 27 jobs per company.

High-growth companies are found in all sectors (including retail and services) and nearly every geographic region. They are relatively young (three to five years old), and in their early stages are subject to a significant amount of “churn.” The fastest growing young firms (five percent) generally have 20 to 249 employees, although a significant number are larger. Once these companies have stabilized, their failure rate is very small (about three percent).

Since high-growth companies clearly have the greatest economic impact on the economy in terms of job creation, isn’t this the logical audience for an EG program to target?

The “Sweet Spot”

There are a number of reasons why local economic gardening programs might find it difficult to target these high-growth companies. Being relatively rare and often flying below the radar, these companies are hard to find, and may not even exist in every community. In addition, their needs are very specialized, and local communities often do not have the technical resources to help them. A recent study in Connecticut found that “while firms with low margins may worry chiefly about the high costs of taxes and healthcare, for fast-growing companies the primary issues have to do with networks—both social and physical.” They are looking for both strong professional networks and state government support for their needs.

Creating the best conditions for their growth generally entails policy decisions at higher levels of government than can often be affected at the local or regional level. Finally, the entrepreneurs who establish these companies are driven to create them whether we help them or not.

On the other hand, the high-growth companies had to start somewhere, and much of their initial growth spurt happens when they are late Stage 1 or early Stage 2 companies. The key is to identify these potential high-growth companies early in their life and help them avoid the pitfalls that may lead to early failure as they begin to grow.

These companies will not all become high-growth companies, but if they experience continuous—or sporadic—growth at all, they will likely contribute new jobs to the economy.

So what does this mean for a local or regional economic gardening program in terms of targeting a particular audience (or audiences) for its services? Taking all of this data into account, I have come to the following conclusion:

I would argue that the “sweet spot” for most economic gardening programs is to target entrepreneurs who have started a venture that is between one and five years old and want to grow it, regardless of its size. These ventures aren’t necessarily “high-tech,” but they have developed some sort of innovation in their product, process or delivery method. They also have a potential or actual market outside the local economic region, and create quality, living-wage jobs.

Finding these entrepreneurs is the tricky part. They may start out as a home-based business, or look like a secondary business such as a local retail or service business that is exploring an outside market through the Internet or franchising. We will explore the problems with finding growth-oriented entrepreneurs in a future blog entry.

According to Don Macke of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, an EG program should ask three questions of potential candidate for its program:

1. Do they have a niche where they are competitive?
2. Are they committed to growth?
3. Are they actively exploring creating an external market footprint?

By getting help at this crucial phase, Stage 1 and early Stage 2 growth-oriented entrepreneurs will be more likely to make good decisions that will allow them to remain viable and sustain their growth to reach the next level, however we define it.

I welcome your discussion and responses.

Sources:

©Christine Hamilton-Pennell 2010, Growing Local Economies, Inc.
 

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Economic Gardening with Public Librarians

by Christine Hamilton-Pennell
Growing Local Economies, Inc.

The research component of an economic gardening initiative must be implemented by professionals with skills in both business research and strategic business counseling. Successful programs need to find a way to marry and coordinate these two functions. A logical place to look for partners with business research skills is in the library world. Librarians in both public and university libraries know how to search for and find information, and usually have access to one or more business databases through their own library or a larger consortium. Several libraries are involved in economic gardening initiatives in the U.S. A couple of them are profiled below.

One of the first economic gardening initiatives to seek the assistance of local libraries was in the city of Greeley, Colorado. Economic Development Manager Kelly Peters approached librarians at High Plains Library District and the University of Northern Colorado Libraries to assist with business research for clients of their Economic Gardening program. Two public reference librarians stepped up to the plate and volunteered to do research projects for the businesses. Peters found that the public librarians, even though they had limited knowledge of business research at the outset of the project, were eager to learn. Along with two business librarians from the local community college and university, they created a small learning group that began meeting regularly to discuss business research tools and techniques. They also met with the businesses they were assisting to hear first hand what the business owners needed. The librarians completed three large research projects in the first six months, including one supporting the county airport in its efforts to recruit aviation-related businesses to its industrial office space.

When Peters left the City of Greeley to become the Chief Operations Officer of the Rocky Mountain Innovation Initiative (RMI2) in Fort Collins, Colorado, she again approached business librarians at the Poudre River Library District and Colorado State University Libraries to assist with research for RMI2 clients, who comprise high impact scientific and technology start-up companies in Northern Colorado. The Initiative was formed by an alliance of Northern Colorado municipal governments, academic institutions and economic development organizations. Anne MacDonald, business reference librarian at the Poudre River Library District, assists with the business research. She reports, “I love the projects and truly think this—economic, market and industry research for local economic development efforts—should be in the job description for any public library business librarian.”

A more recent entrant into the economic gardening field is the Douglas County (Colorado) Libraries. When the Douglas County Economic Development Manager, Meme Martin, approached the Chamber of Commerce at Highlands Ranch to host a pilot economic gardening (EG) program, the library took a seat at the planning table and became part of the initiative.

Rochelle Logan, Associate Director of Research and Collections at the library, serves on the steering committee for the Economic Gardening project. She says it is a natural partnership. “One of our goals at Douglas County Libraries…is to reach out to answer the community reference question. It’s a natural fit to partner with local economic development entities such as the Highlands Ranch / Douglas County EG program” (Your Hub-Roxborough, June 25, 2008). The library was already providing classroom space in three of its locations for business start-up workshops offered by the local Small Business Development Center.

The Douglas County reference librarians received training in basic business strategy and information sources, and began promoting reference services to start-up business owners through the library. They purchased additional business database tools and began conducting more in-depth business research on behalf of the EG center clients.

“We are extremely excited about the partnership we have with the Douglas County Library System and the Chamber’s Economic Gardening program. Douglas County is very fortunate to have the Douglas County Library System as a resource. They continue to stay on the cutting edge,” reports Steve Dyer, President, Chamber of Commerce at Highlands Ranch. They are now a year into the collaboration and the librarians report having completed more than 20 successful research projects for local business owners so far in 2009.

© 2009 Christine Hamilton-Pennell

Growing Local Economies

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Business Start-ups Are Like Orchids

Several months ago, my son brought home a flowerpot containing two bare sticks from the flower shop/urban café where he was working. Orchids, he told me. The owner said she didn’t think they would bloom. He rescued them from the trash.

So we watered and fed them for two or three months. The leaves came along nicely, but the sticks still looked like, well, bare sticks.

orchidsThat’s why I was so astonished a couple of weeks ago to see two blossoms on one of the twigs, with more budding out on both sticks. They are exquisite white orchids that amaze me every time I see them!

It struck me that the orchid story is an analogy for the business start-ups I’ve worked with or observed over the years. You can nurture them and support them and cajole them to take certain actions. It takes time for the new business idea to germinate and take root.  Research shows that maybe a quarter of these aspiring entrepreneurs actually create a new enterprise. In fact, most of them don’t bloom. But you never really know for sure which ones will burst into flower until they do.

Scott Shane points out in his book, Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths That Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By, that the majority of people starting new businesses enter a field they already work in, most of which are already saturated with small businesses (think massage therapists, construction, or pet grooming businesses). Many of these aspiring entrepreneurs have never been in business before and usually have not done an analysis of the market potential in their area before they decide to put out their shingle. 

In terms of “economic gardening,” not all start-ups are created equal. The ones with the most promise of high impact have several defining features. They have some kind of leg up on their competition—an innovative idea, process or product; they have a good management team to execute their idea; they have a solid market that is broader than the local region; and they want to grow their business (the majority of entrepreneurs don’t have a growth focus). These are the orchids. Daisies are far more common, of course, but they don’t have the same value (at least monetarily).

Perhaps the lesson here for local communities is to focus more time and resources on the orchids than the daisies, but to remember that daisies can also be a very important part of a beautiful garden.

(c) 2009 Christine Hamilton-Pennell 

Growing Local Economies

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Churches and Economic Development

by Christine Hamilton-Pennell
Growing Local Economies, Inc.

Most people don’t think of churches and other houses of worship as drivers of economic development. After all, the separation of church and state in the U.S. means that not-for-profit religious institutions do not pay property and other taxes. A community that depends on property taxes to drive government revenues will lose money on the property owned by a church or other house of worship (temple, synagogue, mosque, or shrine).

But looked at from another perspective, churches and other houses of worship contribute to the local economy in a variety of ways. Most churches employ at least one person, and many have upwards of 20 employees, especially if they operate a childcare facility or school. Since they generally operate a facility, churches are consumers of energy to heat and cool the often large, open spaces. They also use insurance, maintenance, landscaping, and construction services (albeit sometimes as volunteer labor), and they consume office supplies, furniture, curriculum materials, and specialty church items.

Participants in religious organizations represent a significant market for religious goods and services. According to the 2009 annual edition of the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches (edited by the National Council of Churches and published by Abingdon), membership of the top 25 churches in the U.S. totals more than 146.6 million. A 2004 Gallup Poll reports that six in ten Americans consider religion to be a “very important” part of their lives and another 26 percent responded that religion was fairly important. More than eight in ten were affiliated with a Christian religion, and half of the respondents said they were Protestants. The largest single religious denomination was Catholic, accounting for about 25 percent of Americans. Some 2 percent were Mormons and another 2 percent were Jewish.

In 2006, a Packaged Facts report on religious markets predicted that the overall religious market for publishing, inspirational merchandise, and audio/video/software product would grow to $9.5 billion by 2010.

On a more personal level, many entrepreneurs report that the religious community has been an important source of moral support for them as they start and grow their businesses. The connections made in a worship community can lead to financial opportunities as well.

Beyond their role as consumers of goods and services, however, churches and their members can also be a force for economic development in their local communities.

The Black church in the U.S. has been aware of its important role in economic development since the time of slavery. In 1977, Gil B. Lloyd wrote an article, “The Black Church and Economic Development,” in which he demonstrated that, historically, the Black church has played an important role in the social and economic life of the Black community. He argued that the Black church, often in partnership with the federal government, has provided both moral and economic impetus for the economic redevelopment of urban areas.

Fast forward to 1993, when Black Enterprise featured a cover story entitled, “The New Agenda of the Black Church: Economic Development for Black America.” In it, author Lloyd Gite profiles the work done by Black churches in several urban areas, including Detroit’s Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, which invested heavily in local economic development projects, from building shopping centers to senior citizen housing in order to create jobs and businesses.

Rev. Charles Adams, Hartford Memorial’s pastor, offered his perspective. “The church needs to concentrate on the business of creating economic institutions,” declared Adams. “The issue is jobs. People being laid off through all this corporate downsizing is affecting every black community in this country. The church finds itself in a situation where it is the best continuing, organized entity in the black community for the acquisition and redevelopment of land, the building of business enterprises and the employment of people.”

“The black church recognizes it has to be in the forefront of economic development,” says C. Eric Lincoln, author of The Black Church in the African-American Experience. “It has become evident that black people are simply going to have to stand on their own feet and the black church, with all of its economic power, can help facilitate that by creating businesses.”

The same issue of Black Enterprise also includes an article on how to set up an economic development plan for a church.

A 2006 article in The State, “Church Plans Tangible Change to a Community,” was picked up by The Black Informant, http://www.blackinformant.com/, and reiterates this theme. The article states, “In many cities and towns, the net result of diminishing government and private investment, deteriorating infrastructure, business closures and joblessness is the perpetuation of an underclass disenfranchised from mainstream society. While many of these areas are distressed and full of despair, the good news is that African-American churches are bringing the gospel of economic development to these communities and renewing hope for a better way of life. The article profiles the economic development work done by Columbia, South Carolina’s Bible Way Church of Atlas Road.

“Bible Way Church of Atlas Road, through its Midlands Community Development Corp., is helping lead the way. The church recently announced a 106-acre mixed-use project that will include affordable homes, a new worship center, a performing arts building, a recreational facility, a hotel and a commercial and medical complex. These developments could transform the Lower Richland community and have rippling effects across the Midlands.

“When such developments take place in low-income areas, they increase property values, attract new residents and become magnets for diverse businesses and better-paying jobs. Church-based business enterprises help rebuild a community’s social infrastructure and provide such much-needed values-based services as child care, youth development, elder care and substance abuse counseling. These activities tend to lead to improved schools, better public safety and an enhanced quality-of-life. From this type of community economic development, everyone—those living in the area and those in surrounding communities—benefits.”

Of interest is an upcoming book by Marci Bounds Littlefield, Assistant Professor of Sociology at IUPUI, who works in the areas of race and ethnicity, urban development, and family in relation to religious institutions. She writes on the black church and economic development in the United States and is presently at work on a book titled Religious Institutions and New Ventures: Evidence from the African American Experience, http://www.iupui.edu/~raac/fellows.html.

Finally, a recent research study by Jonathan Gruber of the MIT Department of Economics looks at the implications of religiosity for economic outcomes. He determines that a major determinant of religious participation is religious market density, or the share of the population in an area which is of an individual’s religion. His findings are that a higher market density leads to a significantly increased level of religious participation, and as well to better outcomes according to several key economic indicators: higher levels of education and income, lower levels of welfare receipt and disability, higher levels of marriage, and lower levels of divorce.

Churches and other houses of worship are part of the network of assets in a local community. Regardless of the fact that their fortunes are tied to the rise and fall of the economy, they are a significant force for economic development in at least three areas—as investors, consumers, and support groups for entrepreneurs.

Sources:

“Church Plans Tangible Change to a Community, November 24, 2006, The State, reported in The Black Informant, http://www.blackinformant.com/uncategorized/church-plans-tangible-change-to-a-community.

“Consumer View: Religious Market: Provided Retail Remains Healthy, the Religious Market Will Continue to Grow.” License Global!, September 1, 2006, http://www.licensemag.com/licensemag.

Gite, Lloyd. “The New Agenda of the Black Church: Economic Development for Black America,” Black Enterprise, Dec, 1993. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1365/is_n5_v24/ai_14680366.

Gruber, Jonathan. Religious Market Structure, Religious Participation, and Outcomes: Is Religion Good for You? National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series, No. 11377, May 2005. http://www.nber.org/papers/w11377

Lindner, Eileen W., National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, eds. Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches. Nashville: Abingdon. 2009.

Lloyd, Gil B. The Black Church and Economic Development,” Western Journal of Black Studies, v1 n4 p270-75 Dec 1977.

“Religious Organizations.” Encyclopedia of American Industries. Gale, 2008. Reproduced in Business and Company Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich: Gale Group. 2009.

(c)2009 Christine Hamilton-Pennell, Growing Local Economies, Inc.

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Economic Impact of Entrepreneurship

I am often asked for sources of data about the economic impact of entrepreneurship. This is a difficult question, at least in part because there is little agreement about what the term “entrepreneurship” actually means. The definition of entrepreneur that makes the most sense to me is “someone who perceives an opportunity and creates and grows an enterprise to pursue it.” This includes social entrepreneurs as well as those who create a for-profit entity.

Here’s a summary of what some of the research says about the economic impact of entrepreneurship:

• A California study of interstate business relocation (either into or out of the state) showed that over the ten-year period from 1993 to 2002 relocation had a negligible impact on job growth. Rather, employment changes in California were primarily driven by the processes of establishment expansion, contraction, birth, and death, rather than by relocation. (Neumark, Zhang and Kolko, 2006).

• A review of 57 recent research studies on the economic value of entrepreneurship, (van Praag and Versloot 2007) concludes that entrepreneurship has an important function in the economy. The authors define entrepreneurial firms as those that employ fewer than 100 employees, have existed for less than seven years, and are new entrants into the market. These firms engender substantial job creation as well as productivity growth and the development and commercialization of innovation. More importantly, however, “entrepreneurial firms produce important spillovers that affect regional employment growth rates of all companies in the region in the long run.”

• David Birch’s review of available data (1981) revealed that between 1969 and 1976, two-thirds of net new jobs were created by firms with 20 or fewer employees. Later studies (Birch and Medoff, 1994; Birch, Medoff and Haggerty, 1995), concluded that just 4 percent of ongoing firms—high growth firm, the so-called gazelles—account for 70 to 100 percent of all new jobs in the United States.

• In a recent survey of almost 20 research studies Henrekson (2008) validates the importance of gazelles in creating jobs. He finds that gazelles—which are not necessarily small or young firms—create all or a large share of net new jobs. Acs, Parsons, and Tracy (2008) add to this body of knowledge in their study of “high-impact firms,” which they describe as “enterprises whose sales have at least doubled over a four-year period and which have an employment growth quantifier of two or more over the period.” On average, high-impact firms are 25 years old, they represent between two and three percent of all firms, and they account for almost all of the private sector employment and revenue growth in the economy. They are found in all industries and almost all regions. Most have fewer than 20 employees.

• Economic Gardening, “an innovative entrepreneur-centered economic growth strategy that offers balance to the traditional economic development practice of business recruitment” (Quello, 2006), was first pioneered in Littleton, Colorado in 1989. Littleton’s economic gardening project has operated for two decades and has demonstrated some impressive outcomes. During the period between 1990 and 2006, Littleton’s employment growth more than doubled, from 14,907 to 30,151 jobs, while its population grew by a little over 24 percent. In comparison, the Denver metro region produced an increase of 45 percent in new job growth, and its population grew by about the same percent. Sales tax revenues in Littleton tripled during the same period of time, from $6.8 million in 1990 to $19.6 million in 2006 (Hamilton-Pennell, 2007). Several new retail and business developments came online during that 20-year period, so there are likely many reasons for the job growth. One important fact, however, is that Littleton did not spend any public funds on recruiting or providing incentives to businesses to come into the city.

References
Acs, Z. J., Parsons, W., & Tracy, S. (2008). High-impact firms: gazelles revisited. Washington, D.C.: Small Business Administration.

Birch, D. L. (1981). Who Creates Jobs? The Public Interest, 65(Fall), 3-14.

Birch, D. L., Haggerty, A., Parsons, W., & Cognetics, I. (1995). Who’s creating jobs? [Cambridge, Mass.]: Cognetics, Inc.

Birch, D. L., & Medoff, J. (1994). Gazelles. In Lewis C. Solmon and Alec R. Levenson, eds. Labor markets, employment policy and job creation (pp. 159-168). Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

Hamilton-Pennell, C. (2007, July). The City of Littleton’s economic gardening program: an entrepreneurial approach to economic development

This slideshow could not be started. Try refreshing the page or viewing it in another browser.

. Helena, Montana, Pacific Northwest Economic Development Council.

Henrekson, M., & Johansson, D. (2009). Gazelles as job creators: a survey and interpretation of the evidence. Stockholm: Research Institute of Industrial Economics, http://www.ifn.se/web/733_1.aspx.

Neumark, D., Zhang, J., and Kolko, J. D. (2006). Interstate business relocation: an industry-level analysis. San Francisco, Calif.: Public Policy Institute of California, http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=710.

van Praag, C. M., & Versloot, P. H. (2007). What is the value of entrepreneurship? A review of recent research. Bonn, Germany: Institute for the Study of Labor, http://ftp.iza.org/dp3014.pdf.

Quello, S., & Toft, G. (n.d.). Economic gardening: next generation application for a balanced portfolio approach to economic growth. In The Small business economy for data year 2005: a report to the president (pp. 157-193). Washington, D.C.: Small Business Administration, http://www.sba.gov/advo/research/sbe.html.

(c) 2009 Christine Hamilton-Pennell

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Best Practices for Supporting Entrepreneurship

by Christine Hamilton-Pennell
Growing Local Economies, Inc.

We all have a new job in this economy: economic development. Historically, economic development practices have revolved around recruiting or attracting businesses to a community in the hopes that they would create jobs and bring new wealth into the area. These efforts have become less successful in recent decades for a number of reasons: declines in the manufacturing sector, offshoring of jobs and production facilities, and the growth of new technology and the knowledge economy.

Supporting entrepreneurship is becoming the key focus of economic development efforts at the local, regional, and state levels. There are numerous examples of successful initiatives to energize and support entrepreneurship. This blog exists to highlight some of the best practices in the field. These initiatives are operating through government entities, Small Business Development Centers, community colleges and universities, incubators, and libraries. 

These entrepreneurial support initiatives have monikers such as “economic gardening,” “competitive research services,” “market research,” and “entrepreneurial tech transfer.” Whatever they are called, their focus is to provide local entrepreneurs with the strategic information, infrastructure, and connections they need to grow their businesses and improve the local economy.

Christine Hamilton-Pennell

Growing Local Economies, Inc.

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