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ECONOMIC GARDENING: Program Helps Businesses Grow

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We’ve heard about gardening in our yard, but what about gardening for your business. Economic Gardening started in the late eighties. But, an organization is hoping to grow the practice in Iowa.

Computers and technology are the focus at EmbarkIT. Anita Messerschmidt says, “We’re an IT company. We started in 2005 and we do everything from training to recycling, testing.”

Messerschmidt started the company in her home nine years ago. Twelve people now work in the West Des Moines office full-time, along with two part time employees. And, she’s looking to grow her business even more. She says, “I wanted to know if we needed to be doing more with social media, online marketing, online store, help desk, those were really the three big arenas that I wanted to look at.”

She found help through a program called Advance Iowa. Consultants with the University of Northern Iowa provide 40 hours of free advice to qualifying firms through the Iowa Economic Gardening Network. Meg Fitz with the Greater Des Moines Partnership says, “Economic Gardening really focuses on these high growth potential companies and hopefully provides them with insight and resources to leverage opportunities to grow and prosper.”

Economic Gardening is meant for businesses like EmbarkIT. Firms need to have been in the area for more than two years and employ between 10 and 99 people. Fitz says, “One of the other key criteria we need to consider is that they have a willingness to grow and that they see this opportunity and want to catapult to the next level.”

Messerschmidt learned she should make the company’s fun website more professional. ¬†And, the group should focus marketing efforts on the costumers they already have, instead of ones they hope to get. She says the advice is invaluable for a firm her size. She says, “When you’re a start-up, everyone wants to say, do this, do that. But once you’re out there, it’s harder to get help and you sometimes don’t even know you need it.”

Advance Iowa gets $500,000 from the state every year as part of the economic development funding.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership works with metro companies after the business owners have been through the economic gardening program to continue the growth.

You can find more information from Advance Iowa’s website.