Tag Archives: startup

Champion the entrepreneurial spirit

Edward Lowe Foundation

Onwards into Michigan to met with the Edward Lowe Foundation and some more incredible hospitality from Dino and the team at the 2,600-acre Big Rock Valley.  The Foundation was established by Ed and Darlene Lowe in 1985 to “champion the entrepreneurial spirit”, after having started and scaled Edward Lowe Industries which invented cat litter.

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Here’s one of the many historic houses on the property.

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The foundation supports the following programs:

All of the above are great tools to utilise depending on what is happening for businesses or locations.  A couple of favourites if I had to pick…

Economic gardening

Economic gardening is “grow from within” strategy targeting existing growth companies and offering them critical strategic information that is customized to their needs.  It was started by Chris Gibbons in Littleton, Colorado who is now the CEO for the National Center for Economic Gardening.  It has achieved some impressive results:

  • “During the 20-year period Littleton practiced Economic Gardening, jobs grew from 15,000 to 30,000, and sales tax revenue more than tripled from $6M to $21M without any recruiting, incentives or tax rebates”.
  • More recently in Utah, 12 companies achieved $16m in sales increases and the creation of 122 jobs, or in Kansas with 28 companies growing both employment and revenue approximately 30% on average.

Data – YourEconomy.org

YourEconomy.org is a very smart tool that gives an overall view of sales, job and business creation.  It drills down to all layers including down to State and most importantly locally.  Pick your favourite location and have a try.

In summary, a couple of insights emerge:

  • Business retention is growth is an often ignored poorer cousin to the more high profile attraction initiatives such as tax incentives.  What a difference can be made in any context by starting with what you’ve got and asking how do you grow?
  • While the Kauffman Foundation (new and young companies) and Edward Lowe Foundation (second-stage entrepreneurs) have slightly different definitions on what companies create the most jobs, they are saying the same thing – entrepreneurs and young companies create the most jobs.
  • Like most places I’ve met the Foundation partners and collaborates with other organisations to achieve their end goal and they have great systems.
  • Data when powered by smart technology showing local information is critical to give context of what is happening in economies.
  • Finally, how do locations educate, retain and attract talent so they create and scale businesses that operate globally?

Beautiful Boise, events and the end of week one

The last day of the first week offshore and I’m not sure if it feels like just yesterday I left home or a month ago.

Today was in Boise, Idaho which is a beautiful ‘city of trees’.

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Idaho Commerce

First up was the team from Idaho Commerce for a very productive conversation, given the remoteness of Idaho and the challenges that brings.  The team has a strong focus on supporting job creation.  There are some interesting initiatives including Accelerate Idaho, a reasonably new tax reimbursement incentive and the Idaho rural partnership fund.  Rurally we talked about moving agricultural products higher up the value chain which when combined with tourism can create even more value (e.g. niche food, craft beer and wine).  Education and the war for talent was raised as a big challenge in the future.

Boise City

From there it was on to meet Nic, ‎Director of Economic Development at City of Boise.  Nic gave me a great overview of the layers of government in the US and how they interact.  Some great ideas flowing from Startup in a day, Obama’s government startup and the Mayors Innovation Project.  Nic reinforced the importance of having good data balanced with customer insight.  My favourite project was a Spring Into Code, which introduces kids to computer science at a young age which is what industry is asking for.

Boise Valley Economic Partnership (BVEP)

I met Jana, who had lived in Tokoroa on an exchange as a secondary school student.  BVEP is a regional economic development agency covering a number of counties and the City of Boise.  Jana reinforced the importance of business attraction by proactively prospecting for new business and working with ‘site selectors’, which is a big industry in the US.  They have some very insightful data and geospatial information combined with customer insight to help identify the sweet spot of what Boise Valley can offer.  In other words, understanding the behaviour and perceptions of prospective and current businesses, rather then using assumptions.  Broken record…but skills and workforce development raised again as key for the future.

International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA)

Taupo District has a strong affinity with IFEA, having previously won an IFEA World Festival & Event City Award.  I was hosted by Nia, including a tour of the beautiful Boise Depot.  IFEA have a great range of great education, information, conferences and awards to name a few and as a result I came away with a ‘to do’ list for when I return.  On the new idea front, it will be interesting to see if crowdfunding for events takes off.

So that is week one done and dusted…it’s a weekend away from work, exploring and driving in Oregon and definitely some downtime before another huge week.  Thanks for all the messages, it’s great to hear from you when travelling solo.  The Friday night thing to do in Boise is float down the river in an inflatable with a chillybin onboard…

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