DUMAS, TX –The term “Economic Gardening” was not anything Dumas Economic Development Corporation (DEDC) Executive Director Mike Running had ever heard when he took the position in March of 2008, but that is precisely what he initiated for the community of Dumas. Mike started the Dumas Business Growth & Development Program (BG&D) in an effort to prevent other Economic Developers from stealing business away from Dumas. “I quickly realized that as I was recruiting businesses from other communities by showing how much we appreciate them and listening to how underappreciated they felt where they were located. I began questioning if we were failing to show our love to our own businesses” stated Running. So, Running initiated the BG&D program that would be devoted to helping local Dumas businesses grow, succeed and expand. The program quickly evolved into something larger than he could effectively address by himself. That is when Running contracted with Entrepreneur Alliance, an Amarillo based small business organization, to bring in a facilitator to help. After interviewing several people, Running found a young aggressive entrepreneur, Matty McClain, that he felt would fit right in with Dumas. Matty listened to what the DEDC vision was for the success of the program and they began marketing his availability immediately. “We continue to add services and components in response to the various needs and requests we receive” stated Running, “and we are always willing to try different things out in an effort to encourage success.” Some of those services include innovative marketing, training, financial counseling, business planning, loans and grants, but they have even included actual direct lead identification. “We have actually gone to the door of potential customers on behalf of our clients in an effort to drum up new business for them. We will get as creative as we can in an effort to help our businesses grow; if they succeed, the whole community succeeds” boasts Running.
Running strongly believes in the opportunities for economic growth from within, but he never realized this concept was a mainstream new idea for economic development programs. Traditional economic development involved going out and finding businesses that were looking to expand or relocate, and then try to lure them with incentives. Running has had success in those efforts with firms such as Anemometry Specialists, Access Care, Equipment Supply Company Inc., Nelson-Jameson, CVS and Sears, but Running felt it was more beneficial to focus inwardly because of the allegiance these firms have with the community and the percentage of the revenues that remain in the community. “Local business success may not bring in the headlines, but by comparison, their successes have a higher value” stated Running. That is because the folks involved not only live in Dumas, but they invest in Dumas through utilities, housing, purchasing more goods and services and hopefully, hiring more people which gives way to more people potentially moving in to fill the jobs. Running also feels the process of assisting firms and start-ups is more meaningful when it is focused on local businesses. “We are better able to meet their needs and address their issues with them as opposed to trying to work with a firm remotely” stated Running. “We can actually see their business, touch it and feel it. It is easier for us to learn about what it is they do, what will help them succeed and actually get out there and do something about it”.
Now, with Matty’s help, the DEDC is embarking on additional services such as a micro-lending program, a youth oriented entrepreneurship program, cooperative marketing services and accounting assistance. Business grants are available for new or existing business that provide a product or service not already available and can show an increase of at least 50% of their revenue coming from outside the community, and preference is given to those firms willing and able to match the grant.
The program has been a huge success. To date, they have visited with nearly 75 different local firms and aspiring business owners in just the two years it has been available. The DEDC has awarded grants to some of these ideas, and helped aspiring owners realize the proper necessities of starting a new business. Running and McClain consider successes to be actual start-ups that they have assisted with, as well as those occasions when they have helped people realize they are not quite ready to take the leap. “The most common reason for business failure is poor planning. We are here to help folks better prepare and plan in order to create a new business, create more jobs or make more money.”
Matty McClain visits Dumas every Tuesday and is available to his clients nearly 24/7. The BG&D Program of the DEDC regularly hosts networking events and workshops, and they encourage anyone to call with any request. “Nothing is too small, too weird, or too big for us to try and wrap our arms around. Dumas is growing and the opportunities are coming with the growth. Why not give our local folks first crack at them?” asks Running. It is a new trend in the economic development community and the experts have given it the name “Economic Gardening”, however, Running is more direct. “I just call it the right thing to do.”
For more information or to schedule a visit, contact the DEDC at 806-934-3332 or contact Matty directly at 806-316-7600. For the more bashful, email either Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org or Matty at email@example.com