Gardening: growth through advice and access to capital
Monday, December 28, 2009
It's not backyard victory gardens or urban chicken coops.
Economic gardening is a practice that has generated a lot of buzz in economic development circles across the country this past year.
As the national and regional economies slowly recover, states, regions and communities are turning to economic gardening as a more targeted and certain approach to creating jobs.
Far fewer companies are relocating and the return on investment for communities for efforts to recruit out-of-state companies is less than stellar.
To deliver a greater return, economic gardening focuses on nurturing local, established local companies poised for growth.
By tilling fertile ground for Sarasota County's "second-stage companies," the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County advances one of the primary goals of its five-year plan: grow and strengthen the competitiveness of existing Sarasota County businesses.
Steve Quello, a national leader in advancing the practice, says economic gardening is "about applying just-in-time, high-end expertise to growth firms."
Earlier this month, Quello spoke at the most recent CEO Nexus Forum, one of the ways the EDC, in partnership with the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, is providing "high-end expertise" to second-stage companies.
The forums bring together leaders of established second-stage businesses in a confidential setting to meet and learn from CEO peers who have grown their companies into a more advanced stage of business development.
The Florida Economic Gardening program provides expert business analysis and access to capital that helps local gardens grow. Sarasota County is the West Central "hub" -- one of six coordinating hubs in the program.
Gulf Coast Signs of Sarasota Inc. is one of 12 Florida companies participating in a Florida Economic Gardening pilot program. Company president Hidayet Kutat, who acquired the 35-year-old company seven years ago, says the EDC introduced him to the program.
A "Jumpstart Team" -- about a half-dozen business experts scattered across the country -- have analyzed Gulf Coast Signs' operations and are now counseling Kutat.
"We decided that my greatest need now is marketing," said Kutat, who is working through the Jumpstart Team's recommendations.
"More jobs ... that's really the bottom line," said Kutat, who employs 23. "If the marketing turns positive and sales increase, my manufacturing shop and install teams will need more workers."
More jobs for Sarasota County is the aim of this program and many other EDC initiatives. Providing customized assistance to local companies, particularly in industries that will further diversify the local economy, will ultimately create new jobs in our community.
Local businesses with opportunities or challenges too big to handle on their own are encouraged to call the EDC at 309-1200.
We are ready to help you.