Bringing business to a region can be equated to big game fishing: governors, legislators, and economic planners traditionally try to reel in the big catch, a large corporation from out-of-state. However, according to the 2012 Georgia Tech applied research paper, “Economic Gardening: Mapping Fertile Gardens,” the market is overcrowded with other like-minded regions offering increasingly better bait to attract the small amount of large corporations available. In his research paper, John Minter (MCRP ’12) writes that between 1994 and 2008, the state of Georgia did better than most, ranking as the fourth most successful state at recruiting outside companies, but “Only four percent of new jobs during that time span were the result of relocations.” The other ninety-six percent of new jobs grew from expansions of existing companies or new, local startups. “The continual watering, nurturing, and guiding [of] the growth of small businesses within the community,” known as Economic Gardening, “is a more sound economic development approach,” argues Minter.
Economic Gardening presents a demand-side alternative to the big catch mentality that dominates much of economic development today. Through the development of a mapping tool that identifies spatial opportunities and its application to Economic Gardening case studies around the country, Minter provides a powerful tool for understanding local economies and builds a compelling case for renewed governmental investment in small businesses. For communities hard hit by the recession due to an overreliance on one or two industries, Economic Gardening has experienced a resurgence, and the mapping tool offered by Minter makes identifying companies to grow within a community manageable.
John Minter is a 2012 graduate of Georgia Tech's School of City & Regional Planning, and Associate Professor William Drummond advised his applied research paper. Minter is currently a GIS Analyst at John Gallup & Associates.