Application of Industry Cluster-Based and Sector-Focused Strategies to Rural Economies

Abstract: 

This paper is intended to deepen national understanding of the policy features that integrate cluster and sector approaches toward comprehensive rural economic growth.

The world market has quickly changed regional economies across America. For rural regions, traditional sectors (such as agriculture, forestry, mining, and manufacturing) are dramatically smaller. For pro-active community leaders, however, the same forces that caused these changes (mainly globalization and advances in technology) are also creating new economic opportunities. A region’s ability to take advantage of these opportunities will depend on how well public and private stakeholders build on their regional strengths and how effectively they collaborate. Promising trends include industry cluster networks, which most states and regions have to some extent, and sector initiatives. Sector initiatives are regional partnerships of employers, training and education providers, community organizations, and other key stakeholders around a specific industry sector to address the workforce needs of employers, and the needs of workers for good jobs.

It has been argued that cluster-based and sector-focused strategies cannot achieve the same level of success in rural regions as in their neighboring metropolitan areas due to a lack of industry density, a small workforce, fewer educational institutions, and fewer viable organizations to act as a convener or “intermediary” of a cluster network or sector partnership. In fact, research for this paper indicates that all regions, including urban and rural, would benefit from better integrating industry clusters and sector partnerships.

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