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VOL. 128 | NO. 234 | Monday, December 2, 2013

Economic Gardening Trial Program Helps Companies Kick Start Growth

By Andy Meek

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Tioga Environmental Consultants is a Memphis-based company founded in 2009 that’s been growing fast in certain service areas.

To make sure it keeps that growth from getting too frothy, Tioga is leaning on a team from the Memphis and Shelby County Economic Gardening trial program, a business-building initiative of which Tioga is one of the newest participants.

The company was chosen by the Edward Lowe Foundation, the Memphis-Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine and the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team to participate in the program. In short, the program helps companies that are past the startup phase by offering them a team of strategists who can help the companies kick start growth from within the company.

Companies are paired with specialists who focus on business aspects like market research and social media marketing, and together the companies and economic gardening team create goals, sketch out a plan to go after new target markets and help refine the company’s business model, among other things.


“Through meticulous planning, we were able to get off to a great start as a company,” said Tioga president Maggie Strom. “Our economic gardening team has already given us valuable information we can begin using immediately.”

Dorian Spears, a junior project manager with the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, said the goal of the program is to develop one more tool for use by entrepreneurs who have strong ties to the community and want to plant their business’ headquarters here.

That tool is the product of an attempt to find something new to add to the existing mix of benefits for businesses, complementing more traditional incentives like tax credits and real estate discounts.

To qualify for the program, companies must have between seven and 99 employees, between $700,000 and $50 million in annual revenue and be based in Memphis. They also must have seen either revenue growth or job creation in two of the last five years.

The program works by using private conference calls and a secure online workspace, meaning participating companies don’t have to leave their office to get the benefit.

Five companies have completed the program so far, and six are currently participating in it.

“The benefit to them is that they receive focused strategic advisory services that can help build their competitive edge,” Spears said. “It is at no financial cost to the participant – (it’s) funded by EDGE and the Innovation Delivery Team – and requires between eight and 12 hours of their time.”

The program lasts from three to five weeks and is customized to the CEO’s needs.

“They have access to a team of experts as well as an extensive database from the Edward Lowe Foundation,” Spears said. “A huge benefit to the participant is that they have access to resources valued at between $20,000 and $50,000, typically available only to Fortune 500-sized companies.”

Tioga’s team of environmental technicians and scientists helps develop solutions for a variety of environmental services including environmental compliance and permitting, property site assessments, and soil and groundwater investigations, among others.

The company recently hired a new technician and an environmental scientist, expanding its employee roster to eight full-time workers.

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