Ann Arbor, Michigan PR Firm &Business and Economy &Business of PR 29 Jun 2010 03:29 pm

Michigan’s Backyard Economic Gardening

It is a well-known fact in business that it is far more cost effective to retain existing customers than to recruit new customers. However, the state of Michigan has been trying to recruit “new customers” for decades by showering big incentives on companies from other states or countries to invest here. Instead, Michigan should take up “economic gardening” in their own backyard as suggested by the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM).

Economic gardening is the cultivating of existing small to mid-size businesses and growing them into much larger organizations. A majority of local business owners admit that they sometimes feel ignored by the state. This is attributable to the fact that the Michigan Economic Development Corp. has been focusing its efforts on searching for outside investment, not helping small, local Michigan businesses grow.

It is for this reason that the SBAM is a strong advocate for economic gardening. At SBAM’s annual meeting this past Thursday, the group educated its members and the candidates running for governor on the reasons why the state should be pursuing this strategy. They shared the success stories of the various pilot programs they are running with 24 companies across the state. SBAM plans to follow up with a white paper and a plan for fully implementing economic gardening by September.

Between the years 1995 to 2007, almost all of Michigan’s new jobs came from small firms with less than 100 employees. While at the same time, employment at companies with 500 or more employees declined by 15%, or 230,000 jobs. According to these results from the Edward Lowe Foundation and the SBAM, it makes far more sense for Michigan to expand from within by focusing on the small, homegrown businesses.

Emily Rozanski

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