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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The bear facts
A joint project linking two state agencies with researchers at Oklahoma State University is gathering the “bear facts” on a growing population in the northeastern part of the state.
A six-year study on black bears in Cherokee, Adair and Sequoyah counties is being conducted as a precursor to possible establishment of a controlled hunting season in Green Country. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management of Oklahoma State University have partnered for the endeavor.
Drug task force seizes K2 at a Tahlequah house
The District 27 Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force seized between $200 and $300 worth of synthetic drugs during a bust Friday.
The Tahlequah Police Department and the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service were also in on the raid. Members of the task force hope the seizure will aid in an ongoing investigation to find larger suppliers.
“We received information that sales were being made from a residence off Choctaw Street,” said Michael Moore, task force director. “Further investigation led to a state search warrant based on the federal Schedule I list of drugs.”
Citizens can report sight obstructions to city
On Feb. 25-26, the Tahlequah Fire Department responded to motor vehicle accidents at South Muskogee Avenue and South Street, and since that time, a few citizens have expressed concern about the sight lines at the intersection.
A visit to the intersection showed that, for traffic westbound on South, the view south down Muskogee is partially obstructed by shrubbery and a tree that appear to be on private property.
Spears: OSRC should help boost business
In a little over 25 years, Arrowhead Resort owner Jack Spears has grown his business from being the smallest float operator on the Illinois River to the second-largest, and he’d like to continue on that path.
Spears believes tourism is vital to the Tahlequah area. He says if the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission would eliminate a zoning issue along the river, both the agency and his own business would reap the benefits.
Spears recently asked the OSRC to consider doing away with recreational floating zones. Commercial flotation device licenses are granted to operators in each area for a total of 3,900 licenses.
Last-place swine earns top sale bid
Local businessmen drew regional attention through a record-setting bid of $10,000 at the Cherokee County Spring Livestock Show last Saturday, but now they say they don’t want the recognition.
The annual show, which ends with a premium sale featuring top winners, is a fundraiser for local FFA and 4-H participants. Proceeds help cover the animals’ expenses or are used for future projects or showings. Community members, organizations and businesses bid on the livestock, but it is not a purchase. The children showing get to keep their animals.
Hulbert man involved in standoff didn’t own illegal guns
Further investigation into the Friday standoff between a Hulbert man and law enforcement has not yet produced any weapons charges.
A search warrant executed after the incident uncovered several firearms inside the trailer in which Michael Wyatt Earp, 42, was living. Law enforcement officers and agents were concerned that some weapons were fully automatic.
Police arrest suspect in hit-and-runs
A vandalism complaint to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department led to the arrest of a man by Tahlequah Police Department officers on Sunday.
Gary D. Martin, 30, faces multiple charges after his arrest outside Jimmy’s Egg on South Muskogee Avenue.
County not responsible for U.S. highways
A noticeable difference between conditions on U.S. Highway 62 on either side of the Cherokee-Muskogee county line in the wake of this week’s winter weather has local residents asking why they’re getting the short end of the stick.
The Daily Press has received queries from readers about the procedures followed in Cherokee County to clear roads. Some speculated Cherokee County commissioners may have been slower to respond than their counterparts to the southwest, but the county isn’t responsible for maintaining U.S. highways.
River zones source of contention for some
Thirty years ago, the recreation business on the Illinois River was limited to small, generally mom-and-pop operations that had a few canoes and a pickup truck as inventory.
Today, float operations can generate a healthy income, and operators have hundreds of rafts, canoes and kayaks, as well as trailers and buses to transport boats and people.
The Illinois River is one of three designated scenic streams in the state, and the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission’s mission is to protect the environmental quality of those rivers.
Recently, Jack Spears, owner of one of the largest float operations on the river, asked the OSRC to consider doing away with recreational floating zones. Commercial flotation device licenses are granted to operators in each area for a total of 3,900 licenses.
New e-cigarette ordinance mulled at Tahlequah council meeting
Though no vote was taken, most of Monday’s meeting of the Tahlequah City Council centered on discussion of a new ordinance that would prohibit the use of electronic smoking devices on city property.
A similar ordinance was read at an October meeting of the council, but did not receive a second reading at any subsequent meeting due to general opposition, and concern about the language.
The new Ordinance No. 1216-2014 received its first reading Monday. An ordinance must be read at two meetings before it can go to council vote.
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- The bear facts