Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Study looks at power of gardening to grow local economy

A new report on the economic development strategy known as "economic gardening" has just been released by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP), a research unit at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
The report is based on CLOSUP's Michigan Public Policy Survey program with surveys of local government leaders from over 70 percent of Michigan's counties, cities, townships, and villages.
Economic gardening is a relatively new economic development strategy used to grow local economies by cultivating existing businesses, rather than, or in addition to, hunting for new businesses to relocate from the outside.
The report examines current economic gardening practices across the state, as well as the opinions of Michigan's local government leaders regarding the stategy's effectiveness.
Key findings include the following:
* Overall, only one-in-four (26%) of Michigan local governments statewide are currently engaged in economic development activities that they consider economic gardening. However, this relatively low percentage reflects the fact that most of the state's smallest jurisdictions conduct few economic development activities of any kind. When looking at the state's larger communities, the MPPS finds that two-thirds (67%) of these jurisdictions are currently engaged in economic gardening activities.
* The most frequently used economic development approaches targeted at existing businesses reported by local governments include granting of tax abatements or deferments to existing companies, fostering networking among local businesses and other organizations, and developing traditional infrastructure to support existing local businesses.
* More than half of all Michigan local officials surveyed (55%) agree that economic gardening can be an effective economic development strategy for their communities, with 88 percent of officials from the largest jurisdictions responding this way. Even in those jurisdictions that are least likely to engage in economic gardening today, 45 percent of officials agree the strategy can work, and only 7 percent disagree.
The report points out that few local governments target the new industries that statelevel efforts have focused on - such as life sciences, energy, and the film industry - and recommends that state-level economic development officials should consider whether new strategies to support local economic gardening activities could reconnect state and local efforts in a more coordinated strategy.

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