Missouri Stage 2 companies see benefit from economic gardening engagement

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By Kelly Dyer. Contact Dyer at kdyer@mochamber.com or 573-634-3511.

You know more about your company than anyone else. But like most CEOs, you could probably use some help when it comes to making decisions about new markets, generating sales leads or deriving more value from your website. Economic Gardening helps existing businesses grow larger by providing customized information to address strategic issues.

Two Missouri companies to complete the Economic Gardening process were very impressed with the quality of information they received.

Bunton Industrial Solutions, located in Lake St. Louis, participated in the Missouri Economic Gardening program during the end of 2016 and early part of 2017. The company heard about the program through the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. At the end of the engagement, Beth Bunton said she recommended it “1,000 percent.”

“This opportunity came at a perfect time,” Bunton said. “The market research and GIS data was a focused strategy that pinpointed areas to target and provided promising leads. We also used the information to strategically hire someone in a key target area for our products.”

Concrete Pier System, located in Hunnewell, just completed its engagement in February. Joe Timberbrook and his management team were excited about the almost-instant hits they received on their re-created website after the web developer implemented the data provided by the social media specialist.

“The Economic Gardening Program was a resounding success, and we were grateful to be a part of this wonderful research program,” Concrete Pier System said in a statement.

Economic Gardening was created over 30 years ago by Chris Gibbons. After Martin Marietta laid off thousands of workers after the Cold War had ended, Gibbons, who worked in economic development, was charged with replacing those jobs but was told not to recruit companies. Instead, he was to grow the companies that were already in his community. Gibbons developed a process that is now known as Economic Gardening and is facilitated by the National Center for Economic Gardening at the Edward Lowe Foundation.

“Economic Gardening gives companies access to sophisticated corporate-level tools they can’t afford or may not know about,” Gibbons said. “It gives them strategic information to solve problems and identify new opportunities for second- stage companies.

“Second-stagers are moving fast and don’t have time to get involved with programs that take months or years to produce results,” Gibbons points out. “They need just-in-time solutions.”

Second-stagers are companies that have advanced beyond the startup phase but haven’t reached maturity. They typically have 10 to 99 employees and generate about $1 million to $50 million in annual revenue, although these numbers can vary, especially in rural areas. Other important hallmarks are their desire and ability to scale.

Why help second-stage entrepreneurs? For one thing, they are significant job creators. Indeed, between 2005 and 2015, second-stagers represented about 17 percent of all U.S. business establishments but generated more than 37 percent of jobs and 36 percent of sales, according to YourEconomy.org.

Economic Gardening specialists provide information and analysis in five key areas: core strategy, market dynamics, qualified sales leads, innovation and temperament. For example, specialists help companies:

• Identify new markets, industry trends and competitive intelligence.
• Map geographic areas for qualified sales leads.
• Raise visibility in search engine results and increase website traffic.
• Leverage social media to better connect with customers.

The Missouri Economic Gardening Program is a statewide initiative that offers Missouri businesses the information they need to expand markets, increase revenue and grow strategically. The team provides powerful and insightful research most small to medium-sized companies would never be able to conduct by themselves because of the prohibitive cost of databases and other research resources.

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