By Christine Hamilton-Pennell
Christine Hamilton-Pennell will serve as presenter and facilitator for the interactive Leadership Training Seminar, "Supporting Growth-Oriented Small Business as a Community Economic Development Strategy" at the Congress of Cities and Exposition on November 29 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Communities across America are searching for strategies that can lead to greater economic development success. One approach that has been effective in many communities is to develop an entrepreneurship support system that focuses on growth-oriented small businesses as a way to drive greater economic growth. Studies have shown that it is the start-up and expansion of local small businesses (fewer than 100 employees) that produces the lion's share of economic growth in a community or region, rather than recruitment or attraction of businesses from outside the region through incentives and tax breaks.
Growth-oriented entrepreneurs have both a strong desire to grow their companies, and the potential capacity to realize sustained growth. These entrepreneurs want to scale up their businesses to reach external markets, thus expanding the economy of the region by bringing in new wealth in the form of investment, jobs and careers, and tax base. This new wealth then "recirculates" throughout the local economy and stimulates the growth of local retail and service businesses.
"Economic gardening" is one example of an entrepreneurial approach to economic development that focuses on the expansion of existing growth-oriented companies. The three basic elements of the economic gardening strategy are building strong local infrastructure-the physical and quality of life amenities that make a community a desirable place to live and work; strong collaboration and connections among stakeholders and resource providers; and the provision of high-level market intelligence services that enable businesses to more successfully and confidently meet their growth needs.
Market intelligence is a process that enables growth-oriented companies to acquire and use high-level technical expertise and strategic market information to explore new markets, assess their competition, identify the best customer base, and develop new business strategies. It provides access to accurate, timely and actionable information gathered from primary and secondary research sources, as well as strategic advice from small business professionals such as business bankers, accountants and legal professionals. This market information helps an entrepreneur ask better strategic questions, make more focused market decisions, avoid costly mistakes, create a solid business and capitalization plan, and successfully grow his or her enterprise.
How local communities and regions respond to the emerging and ever-changing context for entrepreneurship will determine to a large extent their capacity to build stronger, more resilient communities in the future. Focusing on community-rooted, growth-oriented entrepreneurs may hold one of the greatest opportunities for meaningful economic development in today's uncertain economic environment.
Christine Hamilton-Pennell is the President and Founder of Growing Local Economies, Inc., a company whose mission is to help communities of all sizes become more prosperous by leveraging their assets to support local growth-oriented entrepreneurs.