#302. Seven Steps to Developing an Economic Gardening Implementation Strategy

Posted on | The Agurban

Seven Steps to Developing an Economic Gardening Implementation Strategy
This article is an excerpt from the InFocus issue, Strengthen Your Local Economy through Economic Gardening, by Christine Hamilton-Pennell, published by ICMA.

Economic gardening is an entrepreneurial approach to economic development that seeks to grow the local economy from within. Its premise is that local entrepreneurs create the companies that bring new wealth and economic growth to a region in the form of jobs, increased revenues, and a vibrant local business sector. Economic gardening seeks to focus on growing and nurturing local businesses rather than hunting for “big game” outside the area.

Preparing a strategy for an economic gardening program can be complicated-there are many elements that must be developed first, taking into consideration unique community needs and available resources. Here are the seven steps to developing an implementation strategy for your economic gardening program to succeed.

Gain the support of local officials and other stakeholders – It takes time and effort to develop the support of elected officials for an economic gardening approach. The first step is to sit down with each official and other key stakeholders and listen to their concerns about economic development.

Identify your community’s assets – Develop an inventory of community and business assets available to you. Your list of assets should include the usual suspects such as economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, small business development centers (SBDCs), SCORE, workforce centers, universities and community colleges, financial institutions, and civic and social groups such as Rotary and Kiwanis. Other groups and individuals can also provide value to your community.
     Look for individuals in your community who have skills and expertise in areas such as business coaching and mentoring, finance, employment/workforce development, research, marketing, meeting facilitation, organizing/managing projects, public speaking, legal support, and fundraising.
     Perhaps the most important assets you can identify in your community are individuals who can become champions and advocates for your economic gardening project. They might be successful entrepreneurs who want to give back to their community or individuals within any of the groups or organizations listed above.

Develop a collaborative effort among resource partners – Once you have identified the assets in your community, explore which entities and individuals are likely to become resource partners in moving your economic gardening venture forward. Set up a steering committee that can guide and implement the project.4.     Create a system-wide operating agreement –Because an economic gardening project generally involves multiple entities, it is important for the steering committee to develop a formal or informal operating agreement that addresses key operational and long-term planning issues.

5.     Determine the target audience for services – One of the most important questions an economic gardening project needs to answer is, “Who will we serve?” The first step in determining your target audience(s) is to inventory the available entrepreneurial talent in your community. What kinds of businesses are located there? What is their level of growth or maturity?

6.     Develop a delivery system to provide services to the target audience – Steps involved in creating a viable delivery system include finding or developing qualified business coaches, providing or linking to technical assistance resources, locating entrepreneurs within your target audience, offering market research services, identifying financial resources, and partnering with other providers within and outside the local area. A local referral network of small business professionals and service providers is a crucial element at this juncture.

7.     Develop a communication system to gain community support and buy-in – Make public presentations explaining the economic gardening program and gain the support of local media. Use entrepreneurs and your local referral network as advocates to deliver your message to funders, prospective clients, and the public. Build regular reporting functions into your ongoing activities.

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The entire article, 
Strengthen Your Local Economy through Economic Gardening, published in ICMA’s Infocus, is available for purchase in the ICMA Press online bookstore.