When it comes to sustaining and growing a business, the devil is in the details.
According to Maureen Collins-Williams, directors of Entrepreneurship Outreach at the University of Northern Iowa, it’s not new businesses that are responsible for the lion’s share of job creation, but those that have entered “Stage 2,” and are looking to expand or innovate.
“If I were to take all the entrepreneurs in Oklahoma and put them in a pyramid, the bottom layer would be made up of what we call ‘microentrepreneurs’ – those with start-up costs of $35,000 or less, and have fewer than 10 employees. We recognize these as the art galleries, cake decorators – very small, but very passionate. These businesses tend to churn in and out and have a life expectancy of about three years.”
Collins-Williams said many view the microbusinesses as unimportant, that they don’t create jobs or have an economic impact, but she believes they are necessary to the overall business fabric of a city.
The next layer on the business pyramid includes the small businesses: those that offer services and goods key to the community, and have owners who seek to maintain a profit; the innovators; and finally, the venture companies.
But according to research conducted by the Edward Lowe Foundation, the Stage 2 companies – those that have undergone the growing pains of startup, and offer better-paying, stable jobs – are the linchpin to economic gardening, and ultimately, job growth.
“These companies have a proven business approach and have the basics down,” said Collins-Williams. “Lowe said that’s the group responsible for creating new business and has the most potential to grow jobs, based on what’s happened with technology.”
Economic gardening takes an entrepreneurial approach to regional prosperity. It’s often referred to as a “grow from within strategy,” and helps existing companies within a community grow larger. In contrast to traditional business assistance, economic gardening focuses on strategic growth challenges, such as developing new markets, refining business models, and gaining access to competitive intelligence.
“The concept was created by Chris Gibbons, in Littleton, Colo., as he believed economic gardening was better than hunting,” said Collins-Williams. “He felt it was important to invest in the ‘trifecta of service’ for existing businesses, which included access to information, appropriate infrastructure and connection.”
Gibbons proceeded to build information databases for local businesses and eventually refined the numerous databases to 15 to help grow existing companies.
Economic gardening represents a new way of supporting growth companies and letting business owners know how important they are to their local economies.
“Instead of offering traditional incentives like tax credits or real estate discounts, economic gardening programs offer strategic information that’s customized for his or her company,” said Collins-Williams. “What we’ve found is that these companies are ‘sticky,’ meaning they tend to stay in the community in which they’ve developed. Under Gibbons plan, Littleton doubled the number of jobs and tripled its tax revenue within 20 years, all without a single dollar paid in tax incentives.”
What the economic gardening team does is provide a strategic research team that mines databases and uses high-end tools to identify and prioritize sales leads and businesses opportunities, helps refine companies’ core strategies and business models; and uses social media to connect with customers and create buzz about product or services.
“The team analyzes information to affect change that in turn makes businesses more successful,” said Collins-Williams. “But, it’s not for every Stage 2 business. It is expensive, and on average costs about $17,000, which is not a good use of either public or private funds unless the company intends to do something with the information.”
Collins-Williams said many states have implemented economic gardening programs using a spoke and hub approach, in which a larger entity steps up to take on the larger portion of the costs, and shares that information with smaller participants.
Rogers State University Innovation Center Director Jeri Koehler said they began creating a team several years ago in Oklahoma, and the center has almost reached “hub” status.
“We’re almost a hub,” said Koehler. “To attain hub status, you have to have four certified specialists. We have two, almost three, including a new media specialist, who helps companies get found on the Internet, analyzes websites and social media; and we have a geographic information systems specialists. He puts spreadsheet data on a map, basically transforming data into a visually appealing format. For instance, if you wanted to open a sushi restaurant, he would take traffic counts, demographics, etc., and create a map outlining how those things work together.”
According to Koehler, RSU’s Innovation Center has aided a number of small businesses, including Lucas Metal Works in Ochelata, Architectural Fabrication Company in Dewey, and Sooner Coating in Catoosa.
RSU’s Innovation Center aids businesses with economic gardening plans through a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.
“Initial meetings are free, and depending on the strategy, some cost may or may not be involved,” said Koehler. “Our success is measured through job creation. We like to work with companies that move quickly to act on the information we provide.”
When it comes to sustaining and growing a business, the devil is in the details.
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THS jazz band gets up early to hone performance skills
It means getting up an hour earlier, and it doesn’t count as a class, but the jazz band at Tahlequah High School enjoys the dedication of a group of enthusiastic students.
The THS Jazz Band practices every day at 7 a.m., an hour before the start of classes. It numbers 17, and is led by Director Orien Landis.
“They have to do this before school and they get no class credit, but we have a full band,” Landis said. “They are really excited about this.”
Easter traditions date back centuries
Some Christians may lament a partial shift of focus, but a Christian holy day - perhaps the most holy of all – is this Sunday, and it will be marked with celebrations all around the world.
The Christian holiday of Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. For centuries, the observant have fasted, reflected or done penance in the weeks leading to the holiday. But today, many also associate the holiday with the Easter bunny, candy, and kites. In 2013, Americans spent $2.1 billion on Easter candy.
Some oppose minimum wage hike; others decry strong-arming by state
President Barack Obama and the U.S. Senate recently announced a push to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, to $10.10. On the heels of the announcement, an initiative petition was introduced in Oklahoma City to raise the minimum wage to the suggested $10.10. If it gained 80,000 signatures, it would be put to a vote of the people.
This legislative session, a bill passed prohibiting municipalities from setting a minimum was or vacation and sick-day requirements. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill into law earlier this week.
Phone scam takes $500 from couple
Authorities are warning Cherokee County residents to watch for a costly phone scam that recently targeted a local couple and ended in their loss of $500.
According to sheriff’s deputies, a couple contacted authorities after losing $500 to the scam. The couple received a phone call from a man who identified himself only as “Mr. Green.” He told the couple they had won $1.5 million through Publisher’s Clearing House, but to collect the money, the couple would have to purchase a $500 money card to cover various fees.
Missing local teen found dead
The body of a missing 17-year-old boy was found in southern Cherokee County on Thursday, sheriff’s investigators said.
Brikk Pritchett was reported missing earlier this month after disappearing on March 30, a day before his 17th birthday.
Flight of honor
World War II veteran Charles Harra flew missions for the Army Air Corps, and if you ask him which flight was his most memorable, he’ll say it was his 35th mission.
Man charged after leading authorities on wild chase
Prosecutors have formally charged a man who allegedly led authorities on a wild high-speed pursuit across Cherokee County in late March.
Sex offender bonds out after failing to register
A Cherokee County man is out on bond after being arrested last week for failing to register as a sex offender.
Crews this week began to demolish an abandoned radiator shop at the corner of South Street and Guinn Avenue.
SlutWalk shines spotlight on crime
“Two, four, six, eight, stop the violence, stop the rape; slut, slut, ho, ho, yes means yes and no means no!”
This was the battle cry across the campus of Northeastern State University, as the student branch of the American Association of University Women held its third annual SlutWalk Wednesday.
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