Sarasota Starts Economic Gardening Program

Sarasota is starting a new economic gardening program to create a better environment for business growth among adolescent companies looking to mature into stronger, bigger, more diverse businesses.

Allen Carlson, chief executive officer of Sun Hydraulics in Sarasota, recently moderated a forum on the new program at the State College of Florida Lakewood Ranch campus in Sarasota.

The Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County and the Sarasota Chamber of  Commerce hosted the forum on the new program, which will build on Sarasota's strengths, including technology, a good workforce, higher education, strong demographics, the arts and tourism. The forum matched the leaders of more mature companies with younger firms.

The program also got a boost from the Edward Lowe Foundation and Steve Quello, president of CEO Nexus. The Foundation researches and supports small business growth and development. Quello is considered a guru of economic gardening and was one of the forum speakers.

"It's about applying just-in-time, high-end expertise to growth firms," Quello says.

Growth firms, Quello says, are stage-two companies looking to leap to stage three, where they are building on their strengths, diversifying into new markets and adding staff.

While on the right path, second-stage companies, those beyond startup, face difficulties that startups do not, such as attracting investor interest and raising more capital. The new gardening program will specifically help these companies, the Sarasota EDC says.

To qualify for help from the gardening program, a firm must have 10 to 50 employees and annual revenues of $1 million to $25 million. It also must have increased sales and staff growth for three of the past five years.

Writer: Dave Szymanski

Source: Steve Quello, CEO Nexus

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