Policy & Positions Manual
Provincial Issues - Jobs, Tourism and Innnovation
Economic Gardening – Growing Business (2012)
Economic gardening (1) is an economic diversification term that connects entrepreneurs to resources, encouraging the development of essential infrastructure and providing entrepreneurs with needed information. The term refers to growing local economies by nurturing entrepreneurial businesses.
Most small business owners don’t do their own research due to lack of time, money, and skills. Through the economic gardening project CFOS has been able to provide business owners access to counseling, technical assistance, and competitive research.
In delivering the project CFOS has had huge interest to expand the service to other regions of the province. They have also generated a lot of interest from educational institutions that are interested in teaching their students how GIS can be incorporated into market research and as a way to have them do some real life case studies.
The Chamber, in conjunction with Community Futures Okanagan Similkameen, is interested in developing a provincial Economic Gardening Program that will bring together business, education, economic development officers, Trusts and Provincial ministries.
This service has the capacity to assist in the growth of small business revenues and increase jobs. An added value of the program will be students learning new skills that they will bring into the workforce. This program can be sustainable through business participation; however, to develop it into a province wide service, 3 years of support is needed.
Small business accounts for 98% of all businesses in the province, with 42% being businesses with less than 50 employees.(2) 160,500 small businesses (41%) are located outside of the Vancouver region (Mainland/Southwest). BC Stats further reports that 30% of BC’s gross domestic product was generated by small business in 2010. This program is designed to provide small businesses with the critical information needed to grow.
Key elements of an economic gardening program include business coaching and technical assistance, a strong referral network, market research services, coordination, tracking and performance systems, and an ongoing capitalization plan. Delivery models may be unique to each region of BC. It is our intention to build partnerships between economic developers, Community Futures, and educational institutions.
The target business for economic gardening services is existing businesses that bring new money into the region, primarily second stage companies with 10 to 100 employees, and smaller companies with actual or potential markets outside the region that desire to grow. The program is not designed to meet the needs of microenterprises or start-up companies, although in some instances it could be used to verify business plans for businesses looking for financing.
An effective economic gardening program needs to have at least one full-time staff person to support the coordination and research functions. This person requires the services of a Market Analyst, GIS Technician, and a Search Engine Optimization Searcher. These positions can be filled by staffing, contractors, or through business students at Universities or Colleges.
The key to a successful program is having the right tools. The annual cost of subscriptions and maintenance of databases is approximately $85,000. The single most expensive piece of the tool kit is a product called Business Analyst which is software that brings geography and business intelligence together, thereby allowing users to view data in revealing geographic patterns that enable better decision making. With this technology, businesses can go beyond traditional data analysis and incorporate geographic location into viewing and analyzing business, demographic, and consumer spending data.
Most university and college libraries have a number of the databases that are used for economic gardening. By using students to do the research, a full tool kit is not needed in each region. They may or may not have Business Analyst and they would need to cross disciplines to do the analysis (ie: business, computer and geography students). Using the universities and colleges would allow for a greater number of businesses to be served.
The Chamber along with Community Futures Okanagan Similkameen is proposing to assist in developing a provincial program that will expand the economic gardening pilot completed in the South Okanagan Similkameen to the other regions of BC.
There are 5 regions in the province that have expressed interest in setting up an economic gardening program: Vancouver Island, Southwest Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Kootenay, and the North. This program will work best regionally as we can use the regional colleges or universities and serve a larger population of businesses.
It is expected that each region could work with 75 - 100 businesses annually (375 – 500 provincially). Benefits to the businesses would be new markets, increased revenues, and maintaining or hiring employees. Benefits to students would be learning to use GIS for business research and real life case studies giving them experience they can put on their resumes.
The Chamber is suggesting a 3-year government sponsored pilot program. After 3 years, each region would be responsible for covering all costs through business revenues. It is estimated that the total cost for the 3-year program for 5 Regions of BC would be $2,159,105. Potential businesses receiving benefit would be 1,400 for a cost per business of $1,542. This is before calculating the benefit to students, the increase revenues to communities, and the jobs created or maintained.
THE CHAMBER RECOMMENDS
The Provincial and Federal Governments enter into a $2,159,105 funding agreement with appropriate non-governmental organizations to sponsor a 3-year Economic Gardening program in Vancouver Island, Southwest Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Kootenay, and the North.
1 - Economic Gardening is an entrepreneurial approach to economic development. It operates at the micro level and focuses on providing resources, support and sophisticated intelligence to opportunistic entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses. Using creativity and critical thinking, Economic Gardening brings tools and technology most often used by large corporations, to the small business owner. Applications like Geographic Information Systems, and online journal publications, composite performance metrics, online marketing systems and business research databases, allow Economic Gardeners to provide the data and research entrepreneurs need to make effective business decisions.