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Opinion: Tend to your economic garden with multiple sources

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Gardening usually conjures up thoughts about planting flowers or growing vegetables. However, economic gardening focuses on growing local companies and the local economy. Each type of garden must be planted and generally sustained. Both take dedication, effort and support. Personal commitment and passion for your idea must accompany each type of garden. And you must be prepared for the long haul, because just like gardens, small businesses require a lot of work.

To begin an economic gardening program, one must develop an inventory of community and business assets available. How good is the “soil content” – or where is the “wealth” in your community? Usually, the asset list includes organizations with which you can you tap into or partner. Your list of assets should include the U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE chapters, Small Business Development Centers, Certified Development Corporations, and your local chamber of commerce and economic development agency. These organizations include individuals who have skills and expertise in many areas of business. They offer information, classes, mentoring and forums to meet with local experts.

At the SBA, we’ve seen success growing small entrepreneurs into larger companies that employ many people. We believe that effective economic development truly begins at the neighborhood level, right here in your community.

Taylor Packaging Co. in Imperial, south of St. Louis, manufactures plastic packaging for products. The technical name for that process is thermoforming. The company produces packaging for fishing and hunting products, electronic products, automotive parts, Crown Royal and others. It also has a small line to fold and assemble boxes.

If you’ve bought a fishing lure, it was quite likely in packaging by Taylor. But if you have a stereotype of a brawny guy with a ball cap who owns and runs the plant, adjust your mindset. Taylor Packaging is owned by the mother-and-daughter team of Ginger Taylor and Sara Taylor Hardy. Their different personalities create a dynamic and successful business team. Taylor Packaging was founded in 1980 by Ginger Taylor and her ex-business partner/ex-husband. When they founded the company, Ginger worked for free. They took out an SBA 7(a) guaranteed loan that year. In 1988, they were up to 10 employees with revenues of $1 million and then took out an SBA 504 loan. They took another SBA 7(a) loan out in 1993 when they changed banks. At that point, they had 12 employees and revenues of $1.2 million. Taylor Packaging now has 35 full-time employees and revenues of about $3 million.

Small businesses are the key to the health and diversity of a neighborhood and the nation’s well-being. They account for a significant share of local employment and overall U.S. economic production.

I encourage you to research your own business topics using the multiple sources available. And happy gardening!

Patricia Brown-Dixon is Region VII administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, serving Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. She also worked for the U.S. General Services Administration for more than 25 years, with a focus on small businesses. Brown-Dixon can be reached through www.sba.gov.[[In-content Ad]]

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