Economic gardening: growing local businesses by conducting research, building infrastructure and making connections

The Missoula Economic Partnership is continuing to partner with the BitterRoot Economic Development District, Inc. (BREDD) and many other regional partner agencies to create an Economic Gardening Strategic Plan to support local small businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the region.

Economic Gardening is one of the leading entrepreneur-focused economic development strategies in the United States today. While there are many approaches to growing local and regional economies by supporting area entrepreneurs, Economic Gardening focuses on working with growth-oriented entrepreneurs that can create primary (businesses that sell outside of the area economy) economic growth. A key feature of Economic Gardening is its attention to providing market research and high-level technical assistance to growth entrepreneurs. These services can play a central role in helping entrepreneurs grow more competitive and successful businesses that in turn create new investment, jobs and tax base.

Two national Economic Gardening resources are helping the Missoula team with our Strategic Plan, including the Don Macke with the RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship (, and Christine Hamilton-Pennell with Growing Local Economies, Inc. (

The consultants, Macke and Hamilton-Pennell, visited the region in 2011, conducting interviews and providing training on Economic Gardening to a wide cast of stakeholders.  In coming weeks, Macke and Hamilton-Pennell will present an Assessment Report, via an interactive webinar, to all who are interested. The Assessment Report completes Phase 1 of the project – it provides foundational research, analysis and recommendations regarding the feasibility of an Economic Gardening / Market Intelligence service within the BREDD Region. Phase 2 will lay out the prioritized Strategic Plan and road map to implement the BREDD Economic Gardening Project. A small Pilot Project is currently underway; the Pilot is a small-scale, trial run of Economic Gardening, to help inform the Strategic Plan, and to help key players better learn the process and the principles.

Overall, the Strategic Plan will enhance regionalism by providing strategies to support small and medium sized businesses and entrepreneurs, encouraging innovation and job growth. The Strategic Plan will also help pave the way to a more diverse and globally competitive economy for the region. The project relies on, and benefit from the expertise and perspectives of many key partners and stakeholders from across the region.

The Core Regional Partners in the Strategic Planning Process include:

  • BitterRoot Economic Development District, Inc.
  • Hellgate Venture Network
  • John Balsam and Associates
  • Mineral County Economic Development Corporation
  • Mineral County Extension Office
  • Missoula County Board of County Commissioners
  • Missoula Economic Partnership
  • Missoula Job Service
  • Missoula Public Libraries
  • Montana Community Development Corporation
  • Montana Manufacturing Extension Center
  • Montana World Trade Center
  • University of Montana – Technology Transfer Office

Macke and Hamilton-Pennell will present the Assessment Plan, March 1, 2012, 1:00 to 2:30  mtn via an interactive webinar.  Reserve your space here For anyone unable to attend, the webinar will also be recorded, and posted to BREDD’s website at

The Missoula Economic Partnership is proud to be a core partner in this exciting venture. Economic Gardening not only provides crucial market intelligence and assistance to growing businesses, it builds bridges and creates networks among diverse community organizations and institutions.  You know that tangible, meaningful collaboration is happening when the Missoula Public Library is sitting down at the table with the Montana World Trade Center to discuss how to come together and use their respective tools, in order to support local entrepreneurs. It is our intention that the energy and innovation inspired by Economic Gardening will help spark a wave of entrepreneurial growth throughout the Missoula region.

To find out more about the webinar or any other components of the Strategic Plan, contact Melissa Fisher, BREDD Grants Administrator, at or 406.258.3423.  For additional information about the Bitterroot Economic Gardening Project check out .

Missoula Economic Partnership | 500 N. Higgins Ave. | Suite 300 | Missoula, Montana 59802 | P: 406.541.6461 | F: 406.541.6464