Stick to your knitting. Add value to existing activities.
These are concepts used by successful business leaders to build sound and growing enterprises. Together they make up a strategy we call gardening, which I believe works as effectively in community and economic business development as it does in business.
In the old days, hunting – recruiting companies from outside the community – was the primary way communities stimulated economic expansion and job growth. And it worked – particularly in the South and West after World War II – as companies expanded or relocated closer to a new population centers.
Today, however, the economic development game is changing. Most new jobs are being created in smaller, innovative and locally owned businesses. These businesses need highly skilled workers who, in turn, seek high-quality living and working environments.
Communities offering these amenities are more likely to prosper than communities offering tax breaks, cheap land and other public subsidies. These giveaways deplete the very resources, including the tax base, needed to develop the kind of community that will stimulate startups and help businesses grow.
One of the first communities to understand this is Littleton, where officials recently kicked off an aggressive gardening strategy.
First, recognizing that during the next 10 to 30 years most industries in the United States will face shortages of highly trained workers, Littleton’s aim is to improve the quality of its labor force. City officials will work with Arapahoe Community College in Littleton to customize employee-training programs for potentially high growth industries already in the area.
These include telecommunications, cable TV, medical technology and computer software. Child-care management and basic business skills also are included. Already the college has a program to train computer programmers for Martin Marietta and TRW, which have facilities nearby.
Second, Littleton’s leaders have recognized that the country is becoming an information-driven society competing in a global marketplace.
So they will devise value-added “intelligence reports” from computer database services subscribed to by the local library. The reports will address industry trends and asses the strengths and weaknesses of major competitors of Littleton-based businesses.
Third, Littleton will seek to enhance its already high-quality environment by proper land use, preserving parks and maintaining architectural standards for new buildings.
Finally, through a series of community meetings, Littleton will establish a long-range vision of exactly what it wants to be in terms of jobs and lifestyles, and then identify the process needed to reach these objectives.
There is a new vision emerging in Littleton. With an economic development strategy based on gardening, Littleton will stimulate local business expansion and hopefully attract new businesses along the way.
Sometimes gardening is the best strategy for hunting.