When I first joined Whittaker’s team in January 2008, I had little clue about what economic development really meant. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘economic gardening’
by Jim Edmonson
We all get pretty busy answering phone calls, sitting in meetings and returning those endless emails. As a result, we might lose track of our business growth programs. Here is a reminder of what should be going on when you’re busy working.
• Do you have on-going support programs to identify and assist entrepreneurs, or partnerships with SCORE and other business groups that do?
• Do you sponsor Inventor’s Workshops? Offer free night meetings twice a year with a patent attorney, someone who has commercialized a product, a SCORE representative, banker or an investor as speakers.
• Do you have a community business resource center where citizens can access information on how to start a business?
• Have you identified angel investors and other sources of seed capital?
• Does your community support incentives for risky start-ups, and do you move on to the next project when faced with failure?
• Do you make 200 retention visits to local industry per year? That’s 100 individual companies, 100 repeat visits, for 200 per person per year. That’s my goal and I usually exceed it. My staff does, too.
• If you don’t have a Manufacturers’ Council, start one. Focus committees around cross-discipline topics like energy conservation; health care; lean and advance manufacturing practices; workforce development; etc.
• Continuously fine tune your incentive packages to be in line with the needs of your local industry business models.
• Build on the strength of your existing clusters. Your job will be a lot easier if you help them do what they do best and spark their growth.
• Do you have a strategy and target-company profile?
• Are you using a CRM , web-based software program, like Whittaker’s WALT, to manage your leads? ACT!, Salesforce.com, and others will also do the job.
• Do you take the time to follow-up with prospects? The key is to make their job easier. Don’t hesitate to offer to do their work.
• Are you prepared when the prospect comes to town?
• Have you prepared incentive programs that are tailored to their needs?
Keeping a watchful eye on these activities will make your business growth strategy produce results!
Smart companies lead in their fields through innovation. They use technology and knowledge to stay competitive in a global economy. The benefit to attracting and keeping these companies is that they add more value per employee, and therefore pay a higher-than-average wage than other industries, creating more wealth in the community.
But economic development organizations have to be smart to catch and keep them.
First, you need to be aware that there is risk associated with focusing on these firms. They tend to be more volatile in their employment levels and easily impacted by newer technology. Success depends upon their continuous innovation – they must be quick and nimble to avoid falling behind in their fields. Their competitive advantage is often difficult to protect and their product or service often has a very short life cycle. Economic developers must recognize that these companies embrace innovation as a way of life.
You may think you need to live in Silicon Valley or Route 128 in Boston to attract and keep innovative companies. But the first place to look is your own backyard. Innovation occurs everywhere, and most companies grow where they are planted – often where the founder lives – if the climate and culture are right. Part of the issue is access to capital. Does your area provide a source of seed capital and venture funding, and does it support risk-taking.even after frequent failures? If innovative start-ups don’t have the support they need to grow, they die on the vine.
Smart companies also need a supply of smart people. Attracting and keeping talent is paramount to the future of any community, and keeping local talent is easier than recruiting outsiders. While you may argue that keeping young people in small communities is not likely to happen, time may be on your side. When those same graduates get married and begin to have families, the security, safety, and proximity to family are strong motivators to come back to their hometowns. Staying in touch over the years through community newsletters and recruiting beginning at ten-year class reunions can begin the process.
Quality of life and environment are also tickets to attracting innovators. Right-brained innovators enjoy cultural variety and proximity to nature. Innovative thoughts often appear when we are engaged in doing something else, especially when we are close to nature or in a “creative” space. What make a place creative? A quiet walk along the beach or river can allow our brains to slip into the “gap” where these ideas lurk. Seeing other innovators – artists, musicians, writers – at work can spark our own creative ideas.
What else do smart companies need to succeed and prosper? A strong infrastructure of communication, travel and available capital are important assets. But your real task is to create your own center of excellence based upon an inventory of what your area produces, what it offers, and the smarts required to help it succeed.
by Megan Jewell
Attracting new business is a crucial part of filling the economic pie. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. Unfortunately, with so much of the economic development focus on businesses not yet in the area, the potential new business right under our noses tends to go unnoticed. In this day and age, it is vitally important to focus not only on outside businesses that might relocate, but on local businesses looking to make a start. This is especially important to those communities that have experienced a “brain drain” from young, educated people leaving the community to go elsewhere. Some of this could be prevented by simply having the resources and tools in place to keep young entrepreneurs local.
A recent Business Week article shows startup companies the benefits of starting out in a “business incubator.” Like the machines we knew in kindergarten that kept chicks warm as they emerged from their shells and grew feathers, business incubators help new companies take wing with cost-saving measures and smart advice. Informal incubation may take many forms, from affordable office space with shared resources to financial and start-up experts willing to work with newcomers. Banks can incubate. Real estate professionals can specialize in helping start-ups. Chambers of commerce can provide insider advice on the community.
Some communities have even developed formal incubation groups that work together to assist newcomers to business. Incubators can be wonderful tools for entrepreneurs who need a little help getting their businesses up to speed. Incubation can offer solutions to funding, supply, and resource needs. Incubators may offer entrepreneurs a below-market rent rate. They could also offer a range of access to resources such as free marketing and accounting advice from local professionals, or even fax machines and copiers that are shared with other tenants. Some experts or outside consultants may be willing to work at a reduced rate.
Most formal business incubators are strict in their choice of who they allow into the group or facility. It is essential for the entrepreneur to have a well-structured and thought-out business plan. Usually they meet with the owner or board of the incubator and are asked difficult questions about the business’s growth strategy. Members of the incubator are helpful in setting goals for the business and deciding what credentials, once met, will mean the business owner “graduates” from the incubator to strike out on his or her own.
To design an incubator, imagine you’re an entrepreneur considering a business incubator, and think about your needs. You’ll want to know about the incubator’s assistance program, cost of available resources, graduation requirements, flexibility of rules, long-term lease arrangements, and fees charged by outside consultants. You may be concerned about being forced to “graduate” before you feel prepared, leaving your vulnerable business at risk. You will want to take a look at the companies that have recently graduated…are they where you want your company to be?
These are all things an entrepreneur will be looking for when searching for an incubator. They may want to know if you are a mixed-use incubator or a sector-focused incubator. Does your incubator have this information readily available? Do you have a list of recent graduates who might speak about their experience? What resources do you have available to startup companies?
If an incubator sounds right for your community, the National Business Incubation Association website has access to numerous resources ( www.nbia.org/resource_center ), with a list of resources for each state. Some of the information is for members only, but you can learn a lot without membership. Entrepreneurs can locate member incubators by state, so it may benefit you to become a member.
Having plans and tools in place to keep local talent from going elsewhere will help to ensure that entrepreneurs become invested in the future of the community. They are much more likely to stay in the area, connected to the people and roots established while they began their business. Soon, they may be helping to hatch some fledgling businesses themselves.
For the full article please go to http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/index.html , “Hatching For Success,” by Michael Patterson.