BATON ROUGE, La. — Today, LED encouraged Louisiana companies to apply for the nationally acclaimed Economic Gardening Initiative, which helps second-stage firms gain new markets in other states, thereby generating new sales and importing greater value and income to Louisiana communities.
The Louisiana initiative has been recognized as a best practice by the Edward Lowe Foundation, which administers the program nationwide and hosts the National Center for Economic Gardening. Eligible Louisiana businesses will be growing companies of $600,000 to $50 million in annual revenue, and staffs of five to 100 employees. For more information and an online application, visit OpportunityLouisiana.com/Economic-Gardening. Since inception of the program seven years ago, 213 companies from all eight regions of Louisiana have combined to create 1,367 new full-time-equivalent jobs while increasing annual sales by more than $215 million.
“Louisiana Economic Development is committed to accelerating small business growth in our state,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “Small businesses generate most of our private-sector job growth, and we want to provide small business owners and their employees with an environment that helps them flourish. For that reason, I’ve charged LED’s Small Business Services team with pursuing innovative ways to spur small business growth. The Economic Gardening Initiative is among the best tools we’ve discovered that can optimize small business performance in sales and job growth.”
CEO Chris Meaux of Waitr Inc. said the Economic Gardening program identified markets his firms could enter and either be the sole player or the largest player while capturing market share ahead of competitors. Waitr enables restaurants to deliver food and other services via an online portal. Within six months of completing its Economic Gardening engagement, Waitr expanded to thirteen new markets. Gov. John Bel Edwards and Meaux announced the addition of a 100-job technology operations center in Lafayette in June 2016.
“Economic Gardening changed our market expansion efforts from being a guessing game to having clarity where there was a high likelihood of success,” Meaux said. “We had a proven business model, but we needed to know how to expand it. The Economic Gardening program saved us time and money in our expansion efforts and resulted in stronger markets. Each launch has been successful – and we’ve been able to bring them up faster and easier. Economic Gardening has played an integral part in the development of our growth strategy.”
LED connects Economic Gardening participants with a four-person team of highly skilled researchers in specialized tools, including geographic information systems and digital marketing. The resulting business intelligence helps business owners address very specific growth opportunities. Initial Economic Gardening consultations consist of up to 36 hours of market research in strategic areas, with the option for two more rounds if criteria are met.
LED staff and partners help companies focus on two or three business challenges. When the engagement is over, assistance is available for companies to turn the research into an action plan.
“Louisiana remains a poster child for a successful Economic Gardening program, and LED keeps us at the foundation on our toes by never settling for the status quo,” said Paul Bateson, general manager of Economic Gardening at the Edward Lowe Foundation. “Just last year, LED and the foundation collaborated to implement a beta program that will work with the business owners, post-engagement, at 30-, 60- and 90-day intervals to ensure they are successfully utilizing the information received. This collaboration is a major part of overall Economic Gardening improvement across all our programs. You just don’t typically see that level of innovation coming from state agencies.”
“The State of Louisiana continues to be a model for a well-run, effective Economic Gardening program,” said Chris Gibbons, the founder of the National Center for Economic Gardening. “Most notably, the Louisiana program has produced outstanding results. In addition to metrics, it’s important to recognize the behind-the-scenes infrastructure: at every step, the state has excelled. They continue to get key staff people trained and certified in the program and work with us at the National Center for Economic Gardening to spot and resolve any issues as the program advances.”
Louisiana’s Economic Gardening Initiative is wholly funded by LED. For every dollar invested in the program, the State of Louisiana has enjoyed a return of $11.13. For questions about the program, contact Deputy Director of Small Business Services 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 EdwardLowe.org.
About the National Center for Economic Gardening
The National Center for Economic Gardening was founded by Chris Gibbons, who 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 25 states. For more information, visit NationalCenterEG.org.