Planting the Seeds of Business Growth

The RSU Innovation Center will host its annual Economic Gardening Conference on November 16, 2011.

By: Duane Blankenship | Category: Other | Issue: October 2011

Dr. Ray Brown is RSU Innovation Center’s vice president of economic and community development. He and his team are actively involved with growing businesses ­organically within Claremore and other northeastern Oklahoma communities.

Dr. Ray Brown is RSU Innovation Center’s vice president of economic and community development. He and his team are actively involved with growing businesses ­organically within Claremore and other northeastern Oklahoma communities.

The Rogers State University Innovation Center is a designated Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) University Center Program. The Innovation Center at RSU has scheduled its highly successful annual Economic Gardening Conference for Wednesday, November 16, 2011. It will be held at the RSU Centennial Center from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Economic Gardening Conference is open to the public with a small fee, and interested community and business leaders may call (918) 343-7533 or go online to to register. People from across ­northeastern Oklahoma will be attending to learn ways to ­generate sustainable economic growth. Lunch will be provided.

Higher education institutions like RSU are provided annual funding for the support of local and regional economic ­development. The primary ­purpose of the University Center Program is to partner with ­institutions of higher education to improve the economies and economic development capacity of their service areas.  

The keynote speaker for the 2011 Economic Gardening Conference is Chris Gibbons, director of business and industry affairs in Littleton, Colorado. Gibbons is co-inventor of “Economic Gardening,” an entrepreneurial approach to economic development. During the 24 years that Mr. Gibbons has been leading the project for the City of Littleton, the number of jobs in the city has doubled (from 15,000 to 30,000), and sales tax revenues have more than tripled (from $6 million to $21 million.) During the period from 1990 to 2010, the city did not recruit one industry, nor did it offer one cent in incentives or tax rebates.

Guest speaker for the November conference is Mark Lange, executive director of the Edward Lowe Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to accelerate entrepreneurship and its impact on community and economic development. Since joining the Edward Lowe Foundation in 1998, Lange has led the company’s focus on second-stage entrepreneurs – companies poised for growth and job creation.

According to Dr. Ray Brown, vice president of economic and community development for the RSU Innovation Center, “Economic gardening is an ­innovative entrepreneur-centered economic growth strategy that offers balance to the traditional economic practice of business recruitment. It has emerged as a successful prototype for economic developers to consider using to generate sustainable economic growth for their communities.”

The goal of the Economic Gardening Conference is to help business and community leaders throughout northeastern Oklahoma develop realistic ideas that might be incorporated to ­successfully help fuel economic growth throughout our area.

The benefits of economic gardening are many. Economic gardening creates jobs and wealth, attracts entrepreneurs who ­promote and differentiate the community, and impacts tourism. As entrepreneurs support ­industry, they help create the community we all want.

“Existing young companies create most of the jobs in the United States today,” says Dr. Brown. Identified as stage-two companies with 10 to 99 employees and revenues of approximately $2 million per year, these are the companies that are most likely to grow and create new jobs as they aspire to carry sales and development outside the local areas in which they currently do business. “They expand the economy,” adds Dr. Brown, “by expanding the ­territories in which they sell their products and services.”

Those who should consider attending the Economic Gardening Conference are ­community stakeholders ­including economic developers, business service providers, educators, hospital administrators, ­business leaders, chambers of commerce, bankers, utilities ­managers, extension agents, accountants, attorneys, insurance companies, entrepreneurs, elected city officials and city administrators.

The concept of economic ­gardening has been around since the late 1970s, but it has really taken root in the past decade. “We’re trying to do everything we can to develop the economy of northeastern Oklahoma,” says Dr. Brown.


For more information, contact

Rogers State University Innovation Center

(918) 343-7533


Duane Blankenship Profile Picture

About Author Duane Blankenship

Blankenship graduated from the University of Oklahoma and has enjoyed a lifetime career in advertising. He started his own advertising business in 1993 and enjoys creating graphic art and writing. Hobbies include hunting, fishing and pencil drawings. Duane and his wife, Janice, have been married over 50 years and are active in their church and community. He has been a contributing writer for Value News/Values Magazine since 2005.

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