Indiana Business Growth Network

The Indiana Business Growth Network (IBGN) helps leaders of second-stage companies grow their businesses. The network also assists civic leaders as they make their communities great places to start and grow businesses.

What is a Business-Growth Approach?

For many years, community leaders’ primary approach to growing their local economy has been through industrial attraction, looking for a large employer that wanted to move to their community. Some cities, towns, counties, and regions have begun to realize that there are other strategies to grow their economy – helping their existing business grow. In some communities this approach has become known as economic gardening, an entrepreneurial approach to economic development. It assumes that economies can be grown internally by local companies and that the role of the community is to provide sophisticated information and services that improve the natural entrepreneurial process.

Economic Gardening was created in Littleton, Colorado in 1987 where the job base has grown from 15,000 to 30,000. In 2010, a group of economic development partners in Indiana launched IBGN to learn from and adapt the Littleton program. Business growth-focused approaches to economic development are now beginning to take root across the Hoosier state.

What’s happening in Indiana?

The Hub of the Indiana Business Growth Network is the Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) in West Lafayette. PCRD, with support from others within Indiana (such as the Hendricks County Economic Development Corporation and Indiana Small Business Development Center Network), are partnering with a National Strategic Research Team, including experts from Littleton, to bring these valuable services to businesses and communities in the Hoosier State. Indiana’s efforts are also linked to and supported by the Edward Lowe Foundation located in Cassopolis, MI.

By working closely with our partners, PCRD is delivering business-growth services to companies and communities desiring to develop, launch, and sustain business growth-focused economic development strategies.

Currently, the business growth services are only available to “second-stage” companies. Research and experience have demonstrated that these companies often have the potential for growth but can face some significant barriers. Programs like IBGN can help address many of these issues. Second-stage companies are defined as follows:

  1. Be a for-profit, privately held business;
  2. Employ at least 10 but not more than 100 people;
  3. Maintain its principal place of business in Indiana for at least the previous two years;
  4. Generate at least $750,000 but not more than $10 million in annual revenue;
  5. During 2 of the previous 5 years, have increased either the number of full-time employees in Indiana or gross revenues.

What Services are Available?

The business growth approach for 2nd-Stage companies is focused on four strategic issues: (1) core business strategy, (2) market intelligence, (3) qualified leads, and (4) leadership and management team development. The team has the ability to evaluate markets, run competitor intelligence, follow industry trends and new product releases, track regulations, assist with search engine optimization and web marketing, set up social media campaigns, map customer locations and densities, and evaluate core business strategies. A wide variety of custom research is also available. The IBGN also includes members that can assist companies with a variety of other growth-related issues.

For local policymakers, economic development professionals, and other civic leaders, IBGN provides advice, analysis, and technical assistance to help adopt both the policy and administrative support needed to launch and sustain a business growth-focused approach to economic development.

How do you get started?

Local officials, economic development professionals, and other community leaders interested in participating in the IBGN can contact the Purdue Center for Regional Development to get a program started in their community. Once set up, the local economic development organizations typically refer companies into the program. Participating companies complete a Company Profile that gets sent to a Strategic Research Team (SRT). The economic development representative will then work with the company leadership to schedule a conference call interview with the SRT. The purpose of the interview is to gain a good understanding of the company, its industry, and its issues. At the end of the interview, company leadership will identify the top issues facing the company. These issues will then be translated into questions the SRT can help answer.

The SRT will then debrief to make sure everyone understands the issues and to discuss insights each member might have. An Action List is drawn up and assigned to each team member. Work begins immediately and the company leadership will begin to get information from the SRT, usually within hours. Over the next several days, the team may be in contact with the company leadership for further discussion.

It is important to understand that the members of the SRT are not consultants but should be considered, rather, as a highly-skilled staff. The company leadership will receive a lot of information fairly quickly and he or she is expected to say things like "This is interesting, keep following it..... or, can you drill deeper on this? .. or, I already knew about this....or, don't do any more research on this."

There is a modest fee for the sophisticated expertise provided by the Strategic Research Team. When you contact us for more information, we’ll review those costs with you.

Scope and Scale

In Littleton, Colorado this type of support is available on an ongoing basis with some relationships lasting decades. In Indiana, because this is a pilot project, the engagements will be short, intense and highly focused on participating companies’ biggest issues. The engagement and research period typically lasts a week or two.

Contact Information

Local Economic Development Organizations interested in more information about IBGN or would like someone to come talk about the program with their boards or any other groups can contact Scott Hutcheson at the Purdue Center for Regional Development – hutcheson@purdue.edu or 765-479-7704.

Indiana Business Growth Network Presentations:
March 2011: IEDA
May 2011: Economic Gardening National Conference