How Does Your Garden Grow?

Ah, summer—gardening time! Although since the dog tore up my first attempts at gardening a few years ago, I haven’t had the urge to get down in the dirt with a rototiller. But I do like locally grown fresh produce, and every year I purchase a season’s worth of weekly fresh vegetables from a local farm.

So, when we were asked to include a chapter on “economic gardening” in Advocacy’s annual Small Business Economy research report a few years ago (the report is one of many ways Advocacy offers research to help small business), I envisioned fresh sweet corn, crisp sugar snap peas, and juicy strawberries. I soon learned that, as with most things economic, “economic gardening” has almost nothing to do with fresh vegetables. The chapter got written, and since then, I have joined an email group that circulates articles on economic gardening and related topics that is moderated by economic gardening founder Christian Gibbons.

It turns out, though, that economic gardening is linked to growth: it’s all about growing businesses, locally, from the ground up. When communities are looking for ways to add businesses and jobs, one traditional economic development approach puts all the eggs in the basket of attracting large behemoth businesses from outside. Instead, economic gardening uses a variety of sophisticated tools to cultivate local, in particular second-stage companies with growth potential—businesses that may be at a point when the ad hoc methods of entrepreneurial ventures are starting to fail.

Here are a few choice cuttings for your summer reading:

  • Economic Gardening came out of an idea in Littleton, Colorado and the concept has spread across the country, with support from the Edward Lowe Foundation.
  • Strategic Doing. Based at Purdue University’s Center for Regional Development in Indiana, Strategic Doing “enables people in loosely joined, open networks to think and act strategically. Instead of broad visions, they pursue measurable strategic outcomes.”
  • “Michigan’s second-stage companies are a mighty part of jump-starting the state’s economy.” An article on economic gardening in Michigan starts on p. 11:
  • On crowdfunding: “Rock the Post’s emphasis is on helping small businesses facilitate connections not only to funding, but also programmers, designers, and anyone else who can help get their idea off the ground.”
  • SoLoMoCo is a mobile internet company investing in four categories: social media, local ads, Mobile services, and Commerce platforms.
  • Economic gardening relies on good data. The focus in this blog post is on the impact of budgets on the scope and quality of the nonpartisan statistical information the Census Bureau provides.
  • While they may have much in common, there are significant differences between the concepts of entrepreneurship and small business, according to this definition.
  • This National League of Cities tool kit examines how local governments can support entrepreneurship and small business.
  • Harvest time: a growing movement in Columbia, Missouri focuses on entrepreneurial cultivation.

So, as you crunch into delicious seasonal treats—butter-drenched local sweet corn and melt-in-your-mouth peaches—consider the gardeners—purveyors of sweet spring strawberries and local fast-growing businesses.


—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

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