March 31, 2017

Purdue program helps expand jobs by small Indiana firms

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — While often overlooked by local officials, small businesses serve as important contributors to the economies of many Indiana communities.  Recent data shows that 36 percent of all jobs created in the state between 2010 and 2015 were generated by businesses employing 10 to 100 individuals, defined as second stage companies. It is this fact that prompted the Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD), as part of a larger Lilly Endowment Inc. supported initiative at Purdue, to launch the Economic Gardening program in the state.  

Economic Gardening is the brainchild of Chris Gibbons who implemented the program in Littleton, Colorado in the latter of part of the 1980s.  Over time, the program experienced significant growth and the expanding interest in the program resulted in the establishment of the National Center for Economic Gardening in 2011, in partnership with the Edward Lowe Foundation.  The program is now in place in more than 25 states.

Thanks to support from the Lilly Endowment, Purdue has a certified Economic Gardening team made up of professionals from the Purdue Center for Regional Development, the Indiana Small Business Development Center and Krannert School of Management. Furthermore, the endowment has provided seed funds to engage 18 eligible second-stage firms in the state to be part of the Economic Gardening program.

The Purdue-led initiative offers a firm with approximately 20 hours of technical assistance, with the primary focus being on the challenges the company is experiencing in three key areas: market research, GIS data analysis, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)/social media analysis. The Purdue team works hand-in-hand with the companies to assess their market trends, identify competitors, map areas for targeted marketing, visualize supply chain partners and increase online visibility.

Since its launch in 2014, the Purdue Economic Gardening program has assisted 12 second-stage businesses. Follow-up surveys reveal that these firms created 109 jobs since completing the Purdue program.  Furthermore, they realized an increase of more than $30 million in their Gross Domestic Revenues, a 38 percent expansion since participating in the Lilly Endowment supported program.

“From the very beginning of the Economic Gardening program, our hope was that we would help grow 20 jobs over the period of three to four years,” said Bo Beaulieu, director of PCRD. “We were heartened to know that the program has helped realize a net growth of more than 100 jobs in less than three years.”

Among the other improvements realized by some firms involved in the Purdue program are annual gross revenue growth of up to 15 percent within 18 months after completing their involvement in the Purdue program, as well as increases of up to 30 percent in website and social media traffic.

“The marketing consulting we received was very specific and actionable,” said Diana Caldwell, President of Pearl’s Pathways, an Indiana firm that provides services for biopharma and medical device clients. “We were able to use the advice to make impactful changes to our website, to enhance our SEO efforts, and launch a company Twitter account that has helped drive more people to our website, events, and blogs, as well as attract more than 260 followers.”

For more information about the program, contact Bo Beaulieu at 765-494-7273 or ljb@purdue.edu

Source: Bo Beaulieu, 765-494-7273, ljb@purdue.edu

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