Cabarrus EDC Launches Grow Cabarrus

An Entrepreneurial Approach to Economic Development

The Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation (Cabarrus EDC) is awarding five local, second-stage companies with grants to participate in Grow Cabarrus — a pilot program we are launching in partnership with the National Center for Economic Gardening.

Gardening. We’ve all heard of it. We all know about vegetable gardening and herb gardening and flower gardening, but what about economic gardening? Know anything about that? Well, you’re about to, because “Economic Gardening” is coming to Cabarrus County.

The term itself dates back to 1987, when 7,500 individuals in Littleton, Colorado lost their jobs due to cutbacks at Lockheed Martin, a missile manufacturer. The city was reeling from the loss, as well as the 1 million square feet of suddenly vacant real estate. Then came Chris Gibbons, Director of Business and Industry Affairs, who implemented a new plan to work exclusively with local companies in order to create new jobs over the next two decades. The idea was to “grow from within” by targeting existing companies in the region and helping them become larger.

“Economic Gardening gives companies access to sophisticated corporate-level tools they can’t afford or may not know about,” says Gibbons, who went on to found the National Center for Economic Gardening (NCEG). “It gives them strategic information to solve problems and identify new opportunities.” In the case of Littleton, Colorado, this newly implemented concept of Economic Gardening went on to more than double the amount of jobs in the city and triple their sales tax revenue. What’s even more astounding is that all this occurred at a time when Littleton’s population only increased by 23%. Not long after, Gibbons went on to found the NCEG, which has since established Economic Gardening programs in more than 25 states.

North Carolina, however, wasn’t one of them. Until now…

Grow Cabarrus is the FIRST Economic Gardening program in the state, thanks to the Cabarrus EDC’s commitment to growing, well, Cabarrus. With case studies to observe in Florida and New York, the decision to bring an Economic Gardening initiative to North Carolina was an easy one. As Existing Industry Director Page Castrodale puts it, “Cabarrus County is a great place to do business, and the more we can do to encourage the growth of those that are already operating here, the better.”

So, How Does Grow Cabarrus Work?

As Economic Gardening focuses on second-stage companies, so will Grow Cabarrus. These are companies that have outgrown the title of “startup” but still haven’t reached full maturity. They have 10 to 100 employees, generate $1M to $50M in annual revenue, have a customer base that extends beyond Cabarrus County (meaning whatever you manufacture has to be exported outside of the county on a regular basis), and have experienced growth in 3 of the last 5 years. Each of these factors is an important part of Economic Gardening’s success within a community, partly because the needs for growth differ drastically from those of small businesses and startups.

“If you are a healthy business with plans to grow, this is a low-risk, high-reward opportunity. For six weeks, you’ll get a team that is committed to helping you identify opportunities for growth within your current business model. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of that?” says Castrodale.

To kick things off, Grow Cabarrus will be awarding 5 businesses grants to participate in the pilot program. This means that a team of research experts will be at their disposal, finding the key pieces of information that will guide their big decisions moving forward. Often, this includes market research, industry trends, and competitor intelligence, but the program can be customized to fit the specific needs of the company. “We hope that Grow Cabarrus gives these businesses the tools they need to increase their revenue, resulting in more jobs and more tax investment for our community,” explains Castrodale.

Once the initial pilot program has completed, the Cabarrus EDC is hoping to have 5 successful businesses to point to, and from there, they hope to be able to support as many businesses that are eligible. So, if you apply and don’t quite make the cut this time around, stay tuned. More will likely be coming from this initiative, according to Castrodale, who sees the Cabarrus EDC “not only supporting these stage two companies, but also building a pipeline of earlier stage companies” in the future.

How Will This Affect Current Cabarrus EDC Work?

The Cabarrus EDC is fortunate enough to have hundreds of new companies each year consider Cabarrus County as their home, which says a lot about the quality of work and life right here in our community. While bringing new corporations and industries to the area is an important part of the Cabarrus EDC’s mission, Economic Gardening is a way to balance the scale and turn some of their attention to those who already have roots here. Over time, those companies will invest back into the community and create jobs for local workers.

In other words, local second-stage companies deserve just as much time and attention as the larger announcements they’ve been privileged to make. That’s why Grow Cabarrus exists in the first place.

Want to Learn More?

Head over to at cabarrusedc.com/growcabarrus for more details on the program or to apply today!

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