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Purdue Center for
Regional Development

Economic Gardening

Small businesses are the primary driver of job growth in Indiana. In fact, existing second stage businesses generated 36%* of all new jobs in Indiana between 2010 and 2015. Traditionally community leaders’ primary approach to growing their local economy has been through industrial attraction, looking for a large employer that wanted to move to their community. Economic Gardening recognizes that there are other highly-effective strategies to grow their economy—helping their existing businesses grow. Economic Gardening is an entrepreneurial approach to economic development. It assumes that an economy can be grown from the inside, when local companies grow. To help companies grow, the community provides sophisticated data and targeted services that improve the natural entrepreneurial process. Economic Gardening was created by Chris Gibbons in Littleton, Colorado, in 1987 and is implemented by the Edward Lowe Foundation in 25 states across the United States.

Small businesses are the primary driver of job growth in Indiana. In fact, existing second stage businesses generated 36%* of all new jobs in Indiana between 2010 and 2015. Economic Gardening is designed to provide second stage companies (10-100 employees) with a mix of technical support and assistance that can help them thrive and contribute to the economic prosperity of their communities.

The Economic Gardening program was designed by Chris Gibbons, business development director of Littleton, Colorado in 1987. After a major job reduction by one of its largest manufacturers, Gibbons decided to focus resources on the existing local companies. He was very successful at helping those companies create jobs and increase sales tax revenue. Adopted by the Edward Lowe Foundation in 2011, Economic Gardening has a proven history of providing measurable growth to companies across 25 states. You can learn more about the national program at: https://economicgardening.org/.


Economic Gardening differs from the types of business assistance that are traditionally offered by consultants. The Economic Gardening framework employs professional researchers who leverage sophisticated corporate databases, geographic information systems, search engine optimization (SEO) and Web marketing tools to help second-stage businesses create new strategies for growth.

Companies selected to participate in the Economic Gardening program receive more than 35 hours of strategic research and technical assistance by skilled professionals from Purdue University and partnering organizations in the following areas:

1. Market Research

  • Assess market trends
  • Identify potential competitors
  • Discover unknown resources

2. Geospatial Analysis

  • Map geographical areas for targeted marketing
  • Visualize competitors
  • Identify customers
  • Business-to-Business
  • Business-to-Customers

3. SEO and Social Media

  • Raise visibility in search engine results
  • Increase web traffic
  • Track online communications


Eligibility & Application

The Economic Gardening Program is targeted toward second-stage firms which demonstrate technological innovation. The Economic Gardening program defines second-stage companies as enterprises that:

  1. Represent a for-profit, privately held business;
  2. Employ at least 10 but not more than 100 people;
  3. Generate annual revenues of $750,000 to $50 million; and
  4. Maintain its principal place of business in Indiana for at least the previous two years.

Additionally, second-stage companies interested in participation must be referred by their local economic development organization or entrepreneur support application.


The Economic Gardening package can be provided at a flat fee of $4,200. This fee for services is generally found to be lower than a traditional consulting firm would be able to provide. It is encouraged that your company seek financial support from your local economic development organization.

  • Launch: Discovery Call
    Get acquainted with your assigned Economic Gardening team leader to share key information about the company’s history and goals
  • Strategize: Team Call
    Meet with the professional staff who will conduct the market research, SEO analysis, and GIS analysis and collaborate on identifying a strategy that will meet your company’s unique needs.
  • Learn: Check-In Call
    Discuss with the team leader what research has provided the most insights so far and decide on final steps for strategic research.
  • Implement: Close Out Call
    Identify a plan for applying the research across your company to sustain growth.
  • Review: Measure Results
    Touch base about your company’s progress after 3, 6, and 9 months. Continue the dialogue during an annual review for the first three years.


To apply, complete the secure online application here

PCRD Economic Gardening Team

Emily Del Real, Program Manager
Emily’s role in PCRD’s Economic Gardening is to connect eligible entities with the Purdue Economic Gardening team. Emily will work closely with local and regional economic development organizations to help them understand the program components, assist them in identifying eligible corporations in their community, county, or region. Emily will guide corporations through the application process and connect them with their team leader. Following a company’s economic gardening engagement, Emily will maintain communications with participating companies and offer continued Purdue support as key questions arise and the decision making process continues.

Heather Strohm, Team Leader
Heather is a team leader for the Purdue Extension Economic Gardening Team. Heather serves as the liaison between participating companies and the rest of the team. Heather has a tremendous amount of experience with economic development, small business owners, industrial sectors and strategic operations. Heather previously director the West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center but now serves as a regional community development educator assisting Indiana communities with economic and business development needs.

Julie Rigrish, Team Leader
Julie is a team leader for the PCRD Economic Gardening Team. Julie serves as the liaison between participating companies and the rest of the team. Julie has a vast amount of experience working with entrepreneurs and business leaders from a variety of industries. Before joining PCRD, Julie was the Southeast Regional Director for the Indiana Small Business Development Center, and was involved with management, business development, training and sales.

Indraneel Kumar, GIS Analyst
Indraneel contributions to the team are to perform geographic analysis of markets and assets including location analytics for businesses. He has a significant amount of experience in GIS and spatial analyses focusing on community and economic development.

Tanya Hall, GIS Analyst
Tanya is a GIS (geographic information system) analyst for the Purdue Extension Economic Gardening Team. Tanya serves economic gardening clients with targeted focus on how to identify and visualize market opportunities or challenges. As a specialist, Tanya’s understanding of economic development and its associated industry classifications plus knowledge of and experience with large databases coupled with GIS software provides an analysis not often available to companies. Tanya honed her skills with the Indiana Business Research Center (IBRC) before accepting her current role as a regional community development educator assisting Indiana communities with data and economic and business development needs.

Ilana Stonebraker, Market Research Analyst
Ilana is an assistant professor and business information specialist in the Parrish Library of Management & Economics at Purdue where she leverages the incredible market research assets of the library to provide valuable data and analysis for participating companies.

Erik Deckers, Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Analyst
Erik is an expert in social media and content marketing. He is an author with more than 1,400 published columns, articles and reviews and co-author of three books on using Social Media. Erik uses his skills and experiences to help participating companies harness the full power of search engine optimization and social media to grow their business.