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CDC implements Economic Gardening initiatives

By Muriel Eason

Special to The SUN

Muriel Eason, chairman of the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation (PSCDC), is now a certified Economic Gardening Program Director, a title conferred by the National Center for Economic Gardening and the Edward Lowe Foundation, and is working to implement a job creation program within the community.

Since Eason and Udgar Parsons joined Morgan Murri and Mark Weiler on the PSCDC board, the primary focus of the organization has been on growing existing businesses and secondarily on broader community development. Jason Cox, a local software developer and entrepreneur, joined the board on Sept. 10.

“The courses took a significant amount of training, reading, online web classes, a retreat with other economic development professionals to practice the techniques and an internship,” said Eason. “I learned Economic Gardening concepts, history and how the program can greatly benefit our businesses and community.”

According to Eason, “The philosophy around Economic Gardening centers on companies and the entrepreneurs that are already in our community. Studies show that about 70 percent of the jobs created will come from these entrepreneurs. By supporting Economic Gardening, our community is offering assistance that meets the needs of these entrepreneurs and helps to accelerate their growth. This is a proactive approach to economic development that places the community and the organizations that serve entrepreneurs in the driver’s seat to deliver a balanced approach to economic development.”

Economic Gardening is a program started by Chris Gibbons in Littleton, Colo., which emphasizes helping local growth companies.  These companies have been shown to be the best prospects in general for job creation.  The program has helped entrepreneurs double the job base in Littleton from 15,000 to 30,000 and triple the retail sales tax from $6 million to $21 million over the past 20 years. The population only grew 23 percent during that same time period. Perhaps even more telling, it has generated enthusiastic support from Littleton’s business community. The staff has received abundant praise over the years, stressing the invaluable service they provide to local businesses.

The Economic Gardening certification serves to encourage the Economic Gardening movement — an entrepreneurial approach to economic development. It also was created to encourage communities to use Economic Gardening tools, concepts and practices proven to produce jobs and wealth.

The PSCDC has begun to implement Economic Gardening initiatives through its business training programs, business counseling services, business roundtables (in conjunction with the Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce), technical assistance and growth company programs through the Fort Lewis Small Business Development Center and Region 9 Economic Development District’s microloan funding program.

Eason said, “We are working hard to foster an environment of entrepreneurship and innovation here in Archuleta County. Economic Gardening gives us even more tools to support local businesses and entrepreneurs.  This will lead to more jobs in the near future.”

Soon, the PSCDC will seek certification as a “Level I Program,” which means that the PSCDC and local public officials have publicly stated support for the “growth from within” rationale for economic development. These programs support entrepreneurship activity primarily at the start up and early stage levels. They share values and objectives with programs like Main Street, sustainability, local foods and promote locally sustainable and diverse economic development.

Consider joining the PSCDC as an individual or a business member or applying to fill one of the two remaining vacancies on the board. Call 731-1443, or see the website: www.pagosaspringscdc.org/how-to-join/

This story was posted on September 13, 2012.