Economic gardening is an entrepreneur-centered, homegrown strategy for economic development that is gaining ground nationwide. Pioneered by Littleton, Colo., after the city was devastated by the loss of 7,000 jobs shed by Lockheed Martin (then Martin Marietta), the strategy has doubled the city’s job base from 15,000 to 30,000 in 20 years. Littleton’s sales tax base grew from $6 million to $20 million over the same period.
Matthew Piccolo, the paper’s author and policy analyst for Sutherland, explains the theory behind economic gardening:
The driving theory behind economic gardening is that many small businesses are growing and are poised for greater growth – they have a good product, ambitious leaders, and plans for expansion – but they do not have the expertise or resources they need to take the next step. Thus, government can help these businesses create opportunities for growth by connecting them with the tools and resources they need, as part of developing an “entrepreneurial ecosystem,” or a general environment in which entrepreneurs can thrive.
While many of the state’s current economic development policies benefit entrepreneurs and small businesses to some degree, its major and most visible programs primarily benefit larger, out-of-state companies and a relatively small number of companies.
While these incentive programs may help bring jobs to Utah, the state could benefit even more by increasing growth opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Utah. This approach makes sense because small businesses generate the bulk of Utah’s jobs. In 2008, 79 percent of Utah’s jobs came from companies with fewer than 99 employees and 91.7 percent from companies with fewer than 500 employees.
To read the proposal in its entirety, visit http://www.sutherlandinstitute.org/uploaded_files/sdmc/EconomicGardeningUtah.pdf
Sutherland Institute is a conservative, state-based, independent public policy organization located in Salt Lake City. Its mission: protecting the cause of freedom, constructively influencing Utah’s decision makers, and promoting responsible citizenship. Sutherland Institute is recognized as the leading conservative think tank in the state of Utah.
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