BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Economic Development’s Economic Gardening initiative has been recognized as a best practice by the Edward Lowe Foundation, which administers the program nationwide. Economic Gardening seeks to help growing companies export their innovation to other states and import new value into Louisiana communities. The program provides eligible, high-growth companies with virtual access to research information that is customized based on the businesses’ particular needs related to growth.
“From our vantage point, Louisiana is a model for providing a balanced approach to economic development that provides real results with a far smaller state investment,” said Penny Lewandowski, senior consultant on external relations at the Edward Lowe Foundation, the non-profit organization LED partners with and the host for the National Center for Economic Gardening. “The leaders of the Louisiana Economic Development Small Business Services group understand that growth companies are the state’s most powerful source of job creation. The research these companies receive through Economic Gardening leads to greater market share, industry diversification, more customers and increased visibility – all tangible results that translate into faster and more sustainable growth. That means more jobs and more revenue.”
LED is in its sixth year of administering the Economic Gardening program. Since inception of the program in July 2011, a total of 178 unique companies from all eight regions of the state have been accepted into the program representing a total of 200 engagements. Companies utilizing the program have created a total of 561 new full-time-equivalent jobs and increased their revenues by over $218 Million. From a return on investment standpoint, for every dollar LED has invested in the Economic Gardening program, the state of Louisiana has enjoyed a return of $8.13.
“The state of Louisiana has become a model for a well-run, effective Economic Gardening program. Most notably, the Louisiana program has produced outstanding results,” said Chris Gibbons, founder of Economic Gardening and the National Center for Economic Gardening. “In addition to metrics, it’s important to recognize the behind-the-scenes infrastructure: at every step, the state has excelled. It got key staff people trained and certified in the program, and
worked with us at the National Center for Economic Gardening to spot and resolve any issues as the program advanced.”
Accepted companies are connected with a four-person team of highly skilled researchers in specialized fields, including Geographic Information Systems and Digital Marketing, which provide business intelligence to help CEOs address very specific issues. The goal of the program is to provide the resources necessary for these high-growth companies to get to the next level more quickly. First-round Economic Gardening engagements consist of up to 36 hours of secondary market research focused on strategic issues with the option to take advantage of two subsequent rounds if additional criteria are met.
“Economic Gardening is a vital part of strengthening Louisiana’s economy,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “The program offers strategic support for entrepreneurs across the state and affirms our commitment to expand initiatives to nurture Louisiana’s small businesses. We want to see Louisiana’s small businesses grow under the leadership of our state’s visionary entrepreneurs and for the benefit of their many talented and dedicated employees all across our state.”
LED staff, along with various partners including the Louisiana Small Business Development Centers network, provides specific outreach and helps companies focus on two or three business challenges. Once issues are identified, the research team works to provide useful data. When the engagement is over, assistance is available to help companies turn that information into strategies and formulate an action plan.
“Louisiana is a poster child for a successful Economic Gardening program,” said Paul Bateson, general manager of Economic Gardening at the Edward Lowe Foundation. “State leaders truly understand how important second-stage companies are to job creation and economic prosperity, and they walk the talk, dedicating resources from both the LED and SBDC. There are active observers at every step of the engagement, from recruiting the right companies to providing participants with aftercare to implement research findings.”
Eligible companies may apply for and utilize the Economic Gardening program at any point throughout the year. Louisiana Economic Gardening is wholly funded by LED.
“LED is committed to enhancing the development and delivery of this program to accelerate small business growth in Louisiana,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “Small businesses are Louisiana’s largest employer, and it is important we provide an environment conducive for our small business community to flourish, especially those companies adding jobs.”
Feedback from participating companies has been exemplary over the years. Iviana Stewart, chief executive officer and owner of SolScapes, LLC – a utility maintenance company in rural Lecompte, Louisiana – said the program unlocks the secret to key opportunities for growth. Gov. Edwards and Stewart announced the addition of 40 new direct jobs in addition to retaining another 35 jobs for SolScapes in July 2016.
“Knowing my competitors’ position in the market, I knew where and where not to be, in order to combine techniques that would make us more innovative,” Stewart said. “These tools gave me a specific competitive advantage to build more successfully. We worked side by side with our competitors on storm work and came home with a new customer and four additional jobs.”
For more information and an online application, visit www.opportunitylouisiana.com/economic-gardening
. For questions about the program, contact program administrator Christopher Cassagne at Christopher.Cassagne@la.gov
or (225) 342-5882.
About the Edward Lowe Foundation
The Edward Lowe Foundation was established in 1985 by Ed and Darlene Lowe to leverage entrepreneurship as a strategy for economic growth and community development. Their entrepreneurship initiatives are focused on second-stage companies – growth-oriented firms that have moved beyond startup but haven’t yet reached maturity. Their peer learning, leadership education and strategic information programs are geared to help these companies continue growing. For more information, visit http://edwardlowe.org
About the National Center for Economic Gardening
The National Center for Economic Gardening (NCEG) was founded by Chris Gibbons and partnered with the Edward Lowe Foundation in 2011 to host the center in order to help other communities implement his approach. Since then, the NCEG has helped establish Economic Gardening programs in more than twenty-five states. For more information, visit https://www.nationalcentereg.org