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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A stitch in time
They may be seasoned sewing veterans, but local members of the Oklahoma Home and Community Education clubs learned a new stitching craft Monday morning.
Beth Corn led the class, and the objective was to create decorative items from strips of fabric and cotton clothesline cord. Corn and fellow OHCE member Ann Lamons had several completed items on display, including coasters, trivets, throw rugs and even baskets with lids.
“I learned how to do this just watching TV, but I found some instructions in a book and printed them out for everybody,” said Corn. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes while learning, but that’s part of the fun. Once you learn how to do this today, you’ll be able to branch out and use the technique for all kinds of things.”
The class was well-attended, with so many mem bers some attendees ended up having to share sewing machines.
Sheppard takes place of Tinnin on TPS board
Members of the Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education reorganized, swore in a new member, and passed a further adjustment to the 2013-14 school calendar.
TPS has missed 13 days during the school year due to inclement weather, and classes will not be held on March 31 for a professional development day approved by the school board in the consent docket.
The district has invited teachers, parents and community leaders to attend the Oklahoma Education Coalition rally at the state capitol to demonstrate support for increased education funding.
Cherokee Nation touts minimum wage hike, credit rating upgrade
Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. made an appearance at Monday night’s tribal council meeting, as both Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden were out of town.
“As you know, it’s a very busy and crucial time at the state capitol this week,” said Hoskin. “As such, Chief Baker is in Oklahoma City tending to issues that relate to the tribe. Joe Crittenden in Washington, D.C., this week, attending the National Congress of the American Indian.”
Hoskin touted the recent executive order raising the tribe’s minimum wage, as well as news that the Cherokee Nation’s credit rating has been upgraded to triple B.
Greenwood Elementary’s fourth-grade robotics team headed to world competition with innovative project
When five Greenwood Elementary School fourth-graders volunteered to be part of a newly-forming robotics team this past October, they never dreamed that six months later, they’d be competing in a world championship tournament in Anaheim, Calif.
Bryson Page, Lyndsie Kinney, Rylee Jafrie, Ryan Mattox and Ashton Kinsey, along with two robotics teams from Tahlequah Middle School, fared well enough at VEX robotics team regional and state competitions to earn slots among 72 other teams competing for world recognition.
“Back in October, we received a donation for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum from the Cherokee Nation,” said Nikki Molloy, Greenwood parent liaison and robotics team coach. “The donation was a robotic kit, and each elementary site, along with TMS, received kits. The first time we gave the kids the kits, we just let them have at it.”
Seizure issues growing more controversial
Aside from the texts and the rights they enumerate, there are some stark contrasts between the Third and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Virtually no one disagrees about the Third Amendment. There are only rare instances of its being litigated, and it has never been the legal basis for a decision of the Supreme Court.
On the other hand, litigation and dissension over the Fourth Amendment is routine.
Education and consolidation topics at forum
State legislators enter the final week of bill hearings and committee meetings next week, and education and agency consolidation remain key concerns for local residents.
Friday morning, five area legislators made presentations and fielded questions from constituents during Legislative Focus at Go Ye Village. Lawmakers included Sen. Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee; Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove; Rep. Will Fourkiller, D-Westville; Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove; and Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah.
Plea deal arranged for ex-fire chief
A former Cherokee County volunteer fire chief has agreed to plead guilty to forgery and embezzlement charges in exchange for a suspended sentence and payment of restitution.
Third Thursday Art Walk
Shoppers will have a chance to visit downtown merchants in the evening during the Tahlequah Main Street Association’s first Third Thursday Art Walk and After Party on Thursday, March 20.
Participating downtown businesses will keep their doors open to offer specials until 8 p.m., and artists will display their work at different locations. Art exhibitors, including the Cherokee Art Center’s Spider Gallery, will stay open late.
Sex offender bill reaches House
By a unanimous 44-0 vote of the Oklahoma Senate, a bill that would make it more difficult for registered sex offenders to change their names has reached the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 1421, authored by Kyle Loveless, Oklahoma City Republican, underwent its first reading in the House on Feb. 27.
Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault said he did not know of any instances, during his service with the department, of registered sex offenders evading detection with new names for any length of time.
SB 1497 may aid transparency
Government transparency advocates were pleased, and some were surprised, when a proposed bill designed to strengthen Oklahoma’s Open Meetings Act passed the Senate Judicial Committee recently.
Senate Bill 1497, by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, would allow citizens who are denied access to public meetings to bring civil lawsuits, and if the court rules in favor, to collect attorney’s fees. A continuing resolution has already been filed.
Should the legislation pass into law, it would become effective Nov. 1 this year.
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