Tough economic times are helping to cultivate a new approach to economic development.
The Littleton Experience
In the late 1980s, Littleton, Colo., went into a tailspin after the loss of its major employer crippled its economy. Economic developers realized the town’s remaining businesses had many strengths, however, and focused on developing those strengths as a strategy to rebuild the local economy, which has emerged more diverse — and stronger.
Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce. Has established a volunteer advisory board and hosts quarterly forums for 30 to 35 CEOs of second-stage companies. A CEO peer counseling program functions independently.
Collier County. Has started a gardening program. "We can spend our limited funds on our own entrepreneurs," says Tim Cartwright of the Economic Development Council of Collier County.
Florida’s Research Coast Economic Development Commission (Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties). Will use a $200,000 grant to create a pilot program. Michael Corbit, economic gardening coordinator, is planning "boot camps" that will offer financial, legal, HR and other expertise.
The Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County. Plans to encourage participation in the state program and also develop its own program, says Kathy Baylis, president and CEO of the EDC.
Information: 941/309-1200 ext. 100
Broward Alliance. Is starting an economic gardening program. "My gut’s telling me it’s going to work," says Bob Swindell, senior vice president of business development at the Broward Alliance. He adds, "Businesses are in survival mode out there."
Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission. "The companies themselves define what they need," says Ray Gilley, president and CEO of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, which hosted a workshop on economic gardening in June.
Statewide. Fast-growing second-stage companies that want to apply for technical assistance from the state’s economic gardening initiative should contact Tom O’Neal, associate vice president for research at the University of Central Florida, who administers the state program. The Black Business Investment Fund of Central Florida is handling the loan portion of the program.
Technical assistance information: 407/882-1120 or email@example.com
Loan information: 407/649-4780 or bbif.com
The Edward Lowe Foundation offers conferences and training on economic gardening for local economic developers. A white paper with tips on implementing an economic gardening project is available at growinglocaleconomies.com.
Information: 800/232-5693 or edwardlowe.org