The Sandoval Economic Alliance “Economic Gardening” pilot program participants marked it a success.

At the SEA virtual luncheon March 25, participants discussed their experiences.

Kristin Browning-Mezel is an owner of Mezel Mods, a manufacturing company that uses 3D printing to modify pinball machines. The Rio Rancho-based company has five employees and was established in 2014.

“Before I start, I have to tell you I was very skeptical that I would get much value from (the Economic Gardening program). I decided to participate because when someone says, ‘Hey, there are some free resources that you can tap into,’ I always try to tap into them because as a small business, I don’t have a lot of excess resources lying around.”

Browning-Mezel was skeptical because the program offers specialized data that can increase clientele within 60 to 120 days.

“It was a really fast timeline, and I thought, ‘There is no way these people are going to be able to do this,’ but it turns out I was actually wrong; I was really wrong,” she said.

After each company receives its data reports, SEA checks in with the business periodically to assist as needed, said SEA CEO Fred Shepherd.

SEA utilized a research company called the National Center for Economic Gardening, which has access to over 100 databases that can clue businesses in on potential clients, Shepherd said.

For Mezel Mods, the company wanted to expand its services more widely and offer replacement parts to pinball machines, but needed to monitor market needs.

“I wanted to make sure we had another business line that was going to be a little bit more steady and potentially more long-term; the replacement parts business is that business,” Browning-Mezel said.

Resources that helped prepare her for this venture included:
• A search engine optimization and competitor assessment;
• A user experience assessment;
• A customized listening post; and
• A custom Google search.

The search engine optimization and competitor assessment compared her company to five similar ones.

“I have learned so much from this process,” she said.

The data she has gained has allowed her to “drive right past” her competitors, Browning-Mezel said.

Economic gardening participating businesses are:
• Mezel Mods;
• Concrete, Aggregate & Asphalt Testing LLC;
• Deluxe Design;
• PLTi Fire & Security; and
• DHF Technical Products.

All participating owners said the program has made them revamp their company website and taught them how to better use online tools.

Owner of PLTi Paul Arellano said the data provided to his company confirmed he was on the right path. The company often partners with general contractors.

Before the program, Arellano said he had a few organizations on his radar to join to increase the contractors his company works with. Data provided highlighted organizations Arellano could join to increase the company’s customers.

“They send you all this research and data, but they don’t just dump it on you,” he said.

NCEG representatives go over the data with the company, Arellano said.

Shepherd presented an update about the Economic Gardening program to the Sandoval County Commission on Thursday night. The county contributes about $200,000 a year to SEA, part of which goes to the program, he said.

If funding allows, SEA plans to offer the program again, he said.

Assistant Editor at Rio Rancho Observer