[SF Business Times, via MSNBC]: Oakland, other cities dig into ‘economic gardening’
Economic gardening emphasizes nurturing the most promising 3 to 5 percent of companies within a city rather than looking to lure large companies from outside city limits.
‘In Oakland, we’re a large city and we can’t just help anyone who calls,’ said Economic Development Manager Bill Lambert, who launched a similar program in Berkeley three years ago. ‘We have to find a way to identify this smaller target group.’
Lambert said a body of research indicated that 3 to 5 percent of companies account for 80 percent of job growth. In Oakland, that would amount to as many as 400 companies.
Once identified, these companies, which Lambert refers to as ‘gazelles,’ would be eligible for everything from a list of client prospects generated from custom-crafted database research to advice on how to tune their web sites to assistance generating a comprehensive marketing plan.
Terry O’Keefe, director of the Oakland-based Sustainable Business Alliance, which is working with Oakland to run the program, said Berkeley’s economic gardening program helped PowerLight, a solar power firm that booked close to $55 million in sales last year and has made Inc. magazine’s list of 500 fastest-growing private companies for four years running.

The ‘gazelle’ and ‘economic gardening’ approach was pioneered in Littleton CO, to the best of my knowledge — and sure makes more sense than the usual local government competition to see who can grovel lower and give away more taxpayer money to ‘incent’ businesses to come to town or locate in the state. I learned about it in early 1990s when we were commissioned to build the ‘environmental economy’ strategy for the City of Berkeley — adopted 9-0 by a usually divided city council — which recommended the economic gardening strategy referred to in this story.
(The Sustainable Business Alliance — based in Berkeley, by the way, not Oakland — was another outcome of that work. I sit on the board with Terry, who’s the guy who’s really made it happen, turned it into active, mission focused business networking organization that is, I believe, pushing the 200 member mark.)

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