Monday, May 16, 2011

Decoding Skorman: "Economic Gardening"


At the first mayoral debate, the first thing that jumped out at me with Skorman – besides how unbearable it is to listen to him speak – came when he pretended to casually mention the alleged successes of the innovative “Economic Gardening” effort in Littleton.

I’d never heard of it before…had you? But the way Skorman said it, you’d have thought it was common knowledge.

Surprisingly enough, a search for the term “Economic Gardening” returned an astonishing 42,000,000 results….the vast majority pertaining to programs in Colorado. Performing the same search without "Colorado" in the string reduced that number to 156,000.

Which, for starters, makes me wonder who’s in charge in Littleton and Douglas County and how they relate to Richard Skorman and John Weiss.  Haven’t had the time to look into it yet...or maybe one of you can look it up and clue me in.

I'm sure it also has to do with artificial hits and returns...which I guess is something people learn how to do when they have websites with advertising and get paid by the click. 

Of the "economic gardening” results that remained, several hailed from Florida and the organization GrowFL. And you know what that means.


Oh, well, it meant it was time to take the Tanner Test.

Time and again, my rabid longing to learn more about School District #11 School Board Vice President Jan Tanner leads me to the same geographic regions across this great nation:

  • Illinois (Jan’s stompin' grounds),
  • Texas (Corporate headquarters for Mark Tanner’s Dominos Pizza franchise, Inflated Dough),
  • Florida (where Mark Tanner owns a $1,000,000 home on Marco Island along with yet more Dominos Pizza franchises), and
  • Michigan (Tanner’s home state).

I found on-going “economic gardening” efforts in Michigan (424), Texas (230), and Florida (324).  25 results hailed from Marco Island, which is pretty much as fine as my Tanner filters get.

Traditionally, Collier County has been defined by agriculture out east, upscale tourism along the Gulf Coast — and the massive wealth of Naples residents attracted by the area’s climate, understated Midwestern ambience and out-of-the-way location. Today, Naples, the county’s biggest city, has a median household income of $74,959. A study by Forbes found that more wealthy people moved to Collier County in 2008 than any other county in the United States. For years, a number of top-level executives from major multinational firms have maintained homes in the area, jetting in on weekends for golf and recreation. The affluence is visible everywhere from multimillion-dollar beachfront homes to the city’s lively downtown restaurant scene, an impressive array of cultural amenities and the Naples Winter Wine Festival, which since 2001 has raised some $82.6 million for non-profits that help underprivileged and at-risk children.
In the years since the mid-1980s, when the construction of the Ritz-Carlton beach resort drew the attention of the outside world to Naples, the growing financial and intellectual horsepower in town has spawned or attracted several notable businesses, including Arthrex, which has developed 5,000 medical products. The area is also home to Health Management Associates, which operates 58 hospitals in 15 states. Thanks to 5,000 acres from the influential Barron Collier Cos., Collier County has a new town, Ave Maria, with its own university, in the eastern part of the county. Eight companies on Florida Trend’s list of the state’s 350 biggest public and private companies are based in Collier County.
Overall, however, the area’s economy has remained entrenched in agriculture, tourism and upscale development. The poverty of many agricultural workers in eastern Collier stands in shocking counterpoint to the wealth along the coast.
While some residents prefer things the way they’ve been, others are pushing harder to build a more robust business community outside the traditional base. Hoping to lure high-tech industry to southwest Florida, the Collier County Economic Development Council launched Project Innovation two years ago. The effort is focused on getting local business leaders to reach consensus on how to attract innovative companies and high-wage jobs. Collier County is a regional hub for the Florida Economic Gardening Institute’s technical assistance program. With 64 counselors, SCORE Naples is the largest business consulting organization in southwest Florida.
Some believe the effort to land Jackson Laboratory could be pivotal to the area’s future. The Maine-based research institute wants to locate a branch in eastern Collier that would employ 200. But the state and county have yet to finalize an incentive package, and local political friction means the lab could end up in another Florida city ["A Bid For Biotech"].
• Healthcare
» National hospital company Health Management Associates is based in Naples.
» NCH Healthcare System has 681 beds in two hospitals and, with more than 5,000 workers, is the county’s largest private employer. Physician’s Regional Health Care System, which also has two hospitals, is owned by Health Management Associates, a national hospital company that’s headquartered in Naples. Collier Health Services operates 12 healthcare facilities, including the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, a 40-foot-long pediatric office on wheels that delivers healthcare to needy children throughout the county. Last year, the private, non-profit organization provided services to more than 47,000 patients. Nearly two-thirds were children.

So…it sounds like the Marco Island/Naples area of Florida is practically a world-class city

And from the sounds of things, the GrowFL “economic gardening” program has been nothing but good.

GrowFL program creates 400+ jobs, helps fuel statewide economic growth; Posted January 11, 2011 at 10:40 a.m.
Through targeted business assistance, the Florida Economic Gardening Institute (FEGI) and its program GrowFL helped entrepreneurial growth companies create at least 418 jobs throughout the state in just its first year. Based on proven business support strategies referred to as “economic gardening,” the State of Florida-funded program targets companies in the second stage of growth that have passed the start-up phase and are most likely to create jobs.
Of the 208 companies that have participated in the program to date, 124 responded to GrowFL’s recent job creation survey. Those companies reported creating 418 jobs as a result of participating in the GrowFL program. CEOs of second-stage businesses have had more than 1,300 encounters with the program, against the program’s initial goal of 1,000 encounters.
“We look forward to continuing the momentum the GrowFL program has experienced so far,” said Dr. Tom O’Neal, executive director of the Florida Economic Gardening Institute and associate vice president for the University of Central Florida’s Office of Research and Commercialization. “The benefits of the program to individual companies and Florida’s economy as a whole have been significant.”
GrowFL supports the growth of Florida businesses by providing a free suite of economic gardening support services, as well as unique access to market research and technology. Technical assistance services are customized to the needs of individual companies and may include search engine optimization and social media tools, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), market research, competitive intelligence and management team temperament consulting.
“The technical assistance portion of the GrowFL program has helped 159 companies in the first year. We look forward to providing customized economic gardening support services to many more companies in 2011,” said Fran Korosec, director of client services for GrowFL. “Second-stage companies have a lot of opportunities to grow in the new year and GrowFL will be there to help them reach their potential.”
In addition to new jobs, companies that have participated in the program have reported other anecdotal benefits to their company’s bottom line.
“In these tough economic times GrowFL has helped me focus on what we do well, thus not wasting a lot of time or money chasing new low margin products,” said Bob Weidenmiller, owner and president of Presstige Printing.
The one-on-one technical assistance program is complemented by GrowFL’s other economic gardening services including CEO peer roundtables, CEO forums and referral services, administered in conjunction with statewide economic development organization partners.
“Collier County has benefited from having the GrowFL program as an available resource for local companies,” said Tammie Nemecek, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council of Collier County. “By helping our second-stage companies, GrowFL has helped our economy grow and local businesses add jobs.”
The Florida Economic Gardening Institute was created by the 2009 Florida Legislature to help stimulate Florida’s economy. With the state’s initial investment of more than $1.4 million, each new job created by the program in 2010 cost the state just $3,416. FEGI received $2 million in funding from the State of Florida for a second year of the GrowFL program.
GrowFL is the official Economic Gardening Technical Assistance Pilot Program for the State of Florida and a program of the Florida Economic Gardening Institute. Created in 2009 to stimulate investment in Florida’s economy by providing technical assistance for expanding businesses in the state, the Florida Economic Gardening Institute is headquartered at the University of Central Florida under contract with the State of Florida’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development under the Executive Office of the Governor.
Additional information is available at

OK, so we all know how great it is; stop beating around the bush already – what is this great thing called “economic gardening”?

So far, I get that “Economic Gardening” is the latest name given to the formation of local cash clubs, ponzi schemes and pyramid parties for cliquish entrepreneurs who like to sit and “social network” amongst themselves using things like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Well, I dunno about you,…but my Facebook “skills” are HELLA weak; I never know if I’m doing something wrong until after I’ve done it and my kids are telling me about such – I Hate It.

Besides…I understand that instant messaging and chatting have a place in today's business world…but I come from a time where good managers discouraged personal e-mail and chatting and all that jazz.

As far as Twitter goes…I’m sorry, but I think it’s HELLA stupid – from what I’ve seen, most people aren’t witty enough to say anything meaningful in 140 characters or less. Our family doesn’t even own a cell phone -- oh, wait:  that’s right, I already told you about my good friend MagicJack; TELL ME THIS, PEOPLE:

what if Richard Skorman decides that MagicJack would be a great crop to grow here in the Springs…HOW ARE YOU GOING TO FEEL ABOUT THAT, FOLKS, HUH!? Or is it that all business is good business, and so it doesn’t matter?

Here’s another great question: which do you prefer -- hunting…or gathering?

Economic Gardening or Economic Hunting?
Posted on October 30, 2008 by Mike Chitty

Economic Gardening and Economic Hunting are two very different approaches to developing an enterprise culture.
An economic gardening approach sets out to create jobs and entrepreneurial activity by investing in local people and their talents, cultures, passions and skills. It is an endogenous “arising from within” approach to community and economic development. The starting point for economic gardening says that ‘in this community we have all that we need to build a vibrant and sustainable future’. It may need careful nurturing to help it thrive but the seeds of our future success are already sown.
The key tools of economic gardening include:
 building open and accessible networks for potential and current entrepreneurs that foster the exchange of ides and collaboration
 signposting to existing and continually improving support services that help local people on their enterprise journey
 locally available, convivial and very low (preferably no) cost coaching support to help local people to nurture their dreams and aspirations and to believe in their ability to develop them
 access to commercial finance for local people with investment ready business ideas
 support services that recognise that everyone has the potential to become more enterprising and don’t just work with those that are already entrepreneurial.
This contrasts with economic hunting which sets to create jobs and entrepreneurial activity by attracting investment and employment into a community from outside. The starting point here is one that says ‘our community is deficient. We lack the entrepreneurs to create employment so we have to attract them from elsewhere. Then perhaps some of the entrepreneurial pixie dust will rub of onto local people. And if it doesn’t, well at least we will have attracted entrepreneurs who will provide them with jobs.’ This is an exogeneous approach to community and economic development.
The key tools of economic hunting include:
 the creation of facilities and resources to attract companies or ‘creative class’ members to set up their homes and businesses in our community (NB usually these resources are beyond the means of many local people to access). If you are in a facility that serves a ‘much better cup of coffee at a higher price’ than anywhere else in the neighbourhood, or if many local people are priced out of your facility, then there is a strong chance that it is the product of economic hunting rather than gardening.
 the development of inward investment teams and budgets to enable local authorities and regional development agencies to negotiate ‘sweetened’ deals for employers to locate in their communities
 support services that focus almost exclusively on the ‘already entrepreneurial’ as those who have the potential to create wealth and employment for the rest of us.
Historically most of the investment has gone into economic hunting strategies.
There has been a rise in interest (if not yet investment) in economic gardening. I see no fundamental reason why the two can’t co-exist in the same community, but they are not always comfortable bed fellows. (EDITOR’S NOTE: HAHAHAHAHAHA). Economic hunting usually means changing things to make them convivial to outsiders (better coffee, better carpets and sexy furniture). Economic gardening means making things really convivial to local people, affordable, local and accessible.
Often community based enterprise development programmes struggle to help local people to access the business support infrastructure that was designed as an economic hunting tool. It is not designed to be convivial to local people, but to that special breed of entrepreneur from out of town who will pay £3.40 for a posh coffee and £20 an hour to hire a meeting room. More often than not such facilities fail to win in either of these two market places.
So which tribe do you belong to? The hunters, or the gatherers?


I hate how silly and stupid and totally expensive it all sounds.

Anyway, here’s a test you can take to determine the type of entrepreneur you are:

A sampling of questions; answer "Tend to Agree" or "Tend to Disagree":

1) I would not mind routine unchallenging work if the pay and pension prospects were good. 
2) I like to test boundaries and get into areas where few have worked before.
3) I tend not to like to stand out or be unconventional.

I took the test, and will even share the results with you; I gotta say, though...I was more than a little perturbed to learn I was rather intrapreneurial.

Occasionally enterprising
You are likely to have strengths in some of the enterprising characteristics and may be enterprising in some contexts. At this time you probably are unlikely to set up an innovative growth-oriented global business, and may be able to express your enterprise either within employment as an intrapreneur, or in your leisure time through voluntary community projects.
Achievement may not be one of your high priorities. Perhaps setting up and running an enterprise would be too much hard work and commitment. Perhaps you prefer to take life at a more even pace.
You probably prefer to be advised about managing your work and would not enjoy the responsibility of taking charge of an enterprise.
You would probably look to others for entrepreneurial ideas but are probably content with proven, traditional approaches to business or enterprise.
You would probably be happiest with tried and tested enterprise ideas, less risky enterprising ideas, or business ideas where a partner takes the risks (even if that might include sacrificing some of the potential rewards).
Although you have some entrepreneurial qualities, if you wish to start a business you may need to develop your self confidence and enterprising skills to make a success of the venture. You may need to exert greater control over the development of your ideas. Self confidence could be strengthened by developing specific business or project management skills in areas that you feel could be improved. Without greater self confidence you may over-rely on others, such as partners or clients, and this could engender greater business risk.

Hrrrmmmmmm....I'm not so sure about all the difference between an "entrepreneur" and a "volunteer" kind of the same as the difference between a "whore" and a "slut"?  but here's a Facebook quiz I took that was a lot more accurate AND carried "economic gardening" clout:

Which 'LOST' character are you most like? 
You are often misunderstood or unaccepted because of your past mistakes. You aren't very trustworthy to some. Although you are kind to everyone you encounter, you are often quiet and keep to yourself. People don't always understand what you are thinking. The people you do associate with value your friendship.

Don't hate me cuz I'm beautiful, fools.

I mean…does this not sound like Biofeedback? I mean…no offense if you’re into that type of thing and it works for you...but isn’t it wrong for you to presume I subscribe and adhere to such beliefs? Isn’t it wrong for you to force your beliefs on me? 

Listen – I don’t swing that way.

Several times, I was lead to TiE Florida; I guess it's some kind of Florida fad to use both upper- and lower-case letters in their acronyms, like RtI -- District 11’s Response to Intervention, an extensive and expensive program with negligible impact.  These people are also often notorious surname hyphenators.

TiE Florida

Fostering Entrepreneurship Globally

So, I keep looking and looking at the logo…and finally go in close. 

I mean, AM I THE ONLY ONE SURPRISED that the small print under the big red, white and blue TiE Florida logo says “The Indus Entrepreneurs”? 

Who the hell are they?

Here's who:  at least 24 total entities -- with bases in every major Tanner Territory and all around the world:

Here's a warm and fuzzy story to wrap things up:

NewswireToday - /newswire/ - Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, 03/18/2011 - Hyderabad Angels, a group of entrepreneurs who invest their own capital, on Friday announced an investment of INR 20 million in the Hyderabad-based custom RFID manufacturing company, Identis Pvt Ltd.

Unlike traditional Venture Capital and Private Equity models, Hyderabad Angels (supported by The Indus Entrepreneurs, Hyderabad) are a loosely formed organization of people with a common goal of enhancing value of multiple businesses at the same time. Identis which is in the custom RFID manufacturing industry was started in 2010 when promoters Mr. Suresh Lingamaneni and Mr. Sanjay Panda, having vast experience in the RFID industry, have come together to form Identis along with few other friends in the industry.

Apart from funding, Hyderabad Angels will also provide valuable mentorship as Hyderabad Angels are experts who understand the business and can hence guide the entrepreneurs to take their businesses to the next level. While the criteria for investment are different for each deal for the Angels, investment criteria are something that is negotiated between the promoter and the Angels. These vary from deal to deal. Hyderabad Angels has some basic criteria like the investment requirement should be less than Rs. 3 crore.

It is pertinent to note that Hyderabad Angels gives the promoters the freedom to use the funds in the best interest of the Company and does not enforce any strict rules on spending. “Hyderabad Angels is a bridge between investors and entrepreneurs, fueling the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the city of Hyderabad, " said Mr. Lakshmi M Kodali, principal spokesperson, Hyderabad Angels and Managing Partner, LAD Solutions LLC.

“Hyderabad Angels is just a facilitating platform between the Angels and promoters. The investment decision is taken completely by the Angel himself. It all depends on how well the promoter can get the Angels excited about the deal,” added Mr. Kodali.

About Hyderabad Angels

Hyderabad Angels ( are individuals who are experienced seasoned business men and women, who are entrepreneurs themselves and who invest their own capital. These individuals have experience in all business segments in various industries and have the skill set and experience to understand a good venture from a bad one. This model is different from the traditional VC’s and PE models which have more rigid investment guidelines. It is a loosely formed organization of people with a common goal of enhancing value of multiple businesses at the same time.

So, who knows what that’s all about.

Yeah…so anyway, all I could see was a bunch of canned stuff; canned slogans and pitches, canned websites…a lot like watching infomercials. I read a whole lot of words, which would equate to a whole lot of talking, but I’m not hearing anything, literally or figuratively. 

Though I looked high and low, I was unable to find anything at all substantive about “Economic Gardening.”  To me it just looks like a get-rich-quick, "wealth management" stuff you see on infomercials...coined by a group of tree-hugging, medicinal-marijuana promoting, "we're-great-and-we're-gay-and-we're-too-smart-for-you" snobs and deep thinkers who figure all of the "grow your own" jokes and plays on words will float harmless over most of our heads.

Yeah, I get it...ecogardening…for short; eco- like in ecology...when it’s actually economy we’re talking about.  Haha. How far does the play on words go?  I mean, new companies are “seeds” which are then “incubated” and “grown”...ha, like if someone started looking into these "economy gardening" outfits, they'd have a hard time telling if documents were referencing  real live seeds that could be smuggled and transported….or the imaginary "business seeds"…which I guess you can also smuggle and transport. And the opportunities for interest and tax games, along with general money laundering mischief in the Caribbean....haha, ha, ho!...what fun.

There’s other less fun “growing” metaphors, ya know…like plowing...threshing…raking…reaping….composting…harrowing…

I call 100% TOTAL Bullshit.

It gets much scarier, and much worse, friends.

Next up:  fair enforcement of laws and ordinances

1 comment:

  1. "So far, I get that “Economic Gardening” is the latest name given to the formation of local cash clubs, ponzi schemes and pyramid parties for cliquish entrepreneurs who like to sit and “social network” amongst themselves using things like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter."

    Wow, your "analysis" is um an "interesting" take on economic gardening. The model is very simple... stop trying to recruit WalMart into your town and find several viable local businesses that are ready for second-stage growth and add some fertilizer... ha ha ha...