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Development News

City of Grand Rapids looks at "economic gardening" to sustain, strengthen small business climate



It takes more than a good business idea and hard work to grow it into a thriving enterprise. It also takes the right business climate, and that climate is what the City of Grand Rapids Economic Development Department wants to create for second-stage businesses in the city.

"Economic gardening," an economic development process touted by Governor Rick Snyder, the Small Business Association of Michigan and the Edward Lowe Foundation, helps existing businesses grow by providing them with the information they need to succeed, community partners that can help them get to the next level, and by developing a culture of growth and change.

"It's about cultivating what you already have in a community in terms of the business mix before trying to attract new business," says Economic Development Director Kara Wood. "It's a lot of what's happening in East Hills, on Wealthy Street and other places in the city where there are more small businesses. It creates a sense of place, and that's what helps us create and attract new businesses."

Wood says the city has already used state tools and incentives to keep growing businesses like Dematic and DornerWorks in the city, but "economic gardening" is also about raising awareness that Grand Rapids is a great place to start a business and be an entrepreneur.

"There will be no wrong door for entrepreneurs," she says. "All service providers will be equipped with resources to help them, so if they approach the Chamber or the SBTDC or another of our partners they'll be able to get the direction they need."

The city has reached out to a handful of its 30 service providers to-date, including Local First, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Neighborhood Ventures, who have all taken leading roles in developing the initiative. Next steps are the creation of measurables for the program with the help of the Edward Lowe Foundation, and then launching the program in the next 60 to 90 days.

Source: Kara Wood, City of Grand Rapids Economic Development Director
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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