Back in the late 60’s (yes, I am dating myself) I attended college in Pueblo Colorado. At that time it was a town dominated by the presence of the CF&I steel mill. At that time it was rather a dirty, grungy place to be. Today, however, Pueblo is a lush, green, homey community blessed with a vibrant economy. Ten years ago, Pueblo initiated a hybrid Economic Gardening program, somewhat patterned after the Littleton Colorado program. The transformation and difference is obvious.
Today, an article on the expansion of the Pueblo EG program ran in The Pueblo Chieftain. Interestingly, the entire GIS (Geographic Information Systems) department is taking the lead role in the EG program. This is a very logical move and progression as GIS is a key element in the overall EG model. Here is the entire article from the Chieftain:
IT’S GARDENING season in Pueblo County — economic gardening season that is.
The Pueblo County government has pledged a more aggressive approach to business development and job creation throughout the community.
But instead of pursuing prospects and encouraging them to locate or relocate in Southern Colorado — a role already filled by the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation — county officials are trying to help companies that are already here.
The Colorado economic gardening concept, pioneered in Littleton, Colo., in 1989, is aimed at providing sustainable job growth for communities. The simple strategy resulted in a 136 percent increase in new jobs over 15 years in Littleton.
The grow-from-within strategy is picking up steam across the country. Pueblo County started implementing some economic gardening efforts 10 years ago, but now there’s a push to do even more. County commissioners are backing a plan to convert the county’s geographical information systems department into an office of economic development and to make economic gardening a key function of that new department.
The new economic development effort won’t require the county to hire additional staff. Existing employees will be taking on the challenge, which is great news for taxpayers. And if the county’s efforts turn into more jobs, we all will benefit.
Economic gardening is aimed at small- to medium-sized businesses that typically make up 12 percent of the nation’s economy. But research has shown that these companies generate 35 percent of the new jobs in the U.S., so it makes sense for local governments to provide readily available technical assistance that helps such businesses expand and flourish.
And when local businesses grow, experts claim, they have a greater commitment to their community and are more likely to stay put, providing sustained jobs that will impact the economy for years to come.
Through economic gardening, Pueblo County officials will help businesses identify new or emerging markets and help them become more competitive. The county’s GIS department has access to vast amounts of data businesses can use to grow and expand their reach.
We applaud the county’s renewed commitment to helping private businesses grow. We’re encouraged that our elected officials are beginning to realize, as we do, that the private sector is where sustainable jobs and economic prosperity will come from.