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Sussex County officials are inviting businesses that meet certain criteria to apply for an Economic Gardening initiative that will provide capital, information and resources, to help them achieve a higher level of success.

“The overall goal is to increase revenues and to increase employment and that helps all of Delaware,” William Pfaff, economic development director for Sussex County, told the Coastal Point this week.

“This is the call-to-order, to say, ‘Hey, listen. Now is the time to apply for it so we can go through the application process,’” he said.

Five grants of $5,000 each are available to the second-stage companies selected. Sussex County Council members have authorized up to $25,000, with a maximum of $5,000 per second-stage business, in the first year.

Second-stage companies are defined as scaling, or emerging, in growth. They typically employ 10 to 99 workers and have an annual sales revenue of $1 million to $50 million.

“We are the first, really, here in the Northeast to do this. This was developed by the Center for Economic Gardening in Colorado in 2001, and it’s been spreading through the country since then. Because we want these businesses to increase jobs and sales revenue, we look specifically at second-stage businesses that are beginning, that are beyond the start-up stage,” Pfaff said.

The five that are chosen by Pfaff and members of the Economic Development Council will receive grant money plus customized information analysis in four areas: core strategies, marketing dynamics, innovation and qualified sales leads.

A national strategic research team will be assigned to each business, and those team members will help with techniques such as commercial data bases, mapping and search engine optimization.

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“They will use a lot of research tools to help these businesses work in those four core areas. This is only for businesses that are ready to scale,” Pfaff said.

Economic gardening, a nationally known program developed by the Center for Economic Gardening, has demonstrated increased job growth in numerous communities, according to a news release issued by the Sussex County Council.

Participating businesses have tripled sales tax revenues from $6 million to $21 million without incentives, recruiting or tax rebates.

Pfaff said he hopes to see 12 to 15 applicants and emphasized that companies in trouble are not eligible.

Applications are due by Aug. 26. Interested businesspeople can call the Sussex County Economic Development Office at (302) 855-7770.


By Susan Canfora

Point Reporter

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