Competitive Communities
Building Communities for Tomorrow's Economy
“Regional Competitiveness” – The Evolving Era of ED

Sunday, March 04, 2007  

A May 2005 report, A Review of the Federal Role in Regional Economic Development by Mark Drabenstott of the Center for the Study of Rural America, presents an insightful look at the role of government in Economic Development. This study shares some ED history and explains how the federal government is organized to support economic development.

“The current federal hand in economic development is not easy to characterize. Programs have grown up in nearly every corner of government over the past 50 years or more. Nine federal departments and another four agencies all get involved in one form of economic development or another. This effort is largely unfocused—there is no overriding goal focusing the effort. In that sense, it is far easier to list the 180 programs involved in economic development than to describe the policy driving them. However, what can be said is that many of the programs assume that regional economic development is largely homogeneous across the nation, and is driven by an industrial economic engine.”

Drivers of regional economic development have evolved over time. The 50’s thru the early 80’s were the age of industrial recruiting, deregulation in the 80’s brought on cost competition, and accelerated globalization of markets in the 90’s led us to a currently developing age of Regional Competitiveness. The main drivers of this current trend are innovation and entrepreneurship. Human capital and higher education are critical assets in our current understanding of this new era. The following are additional excerpts from the study:

…”critical distinction between today and the earlier eras is that economic development is no longer a matter of one economic development strategy applied to all regions—what some might call a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Industrial recruitment was universal. Indeed, the remnants of this strategy still run far and wide. Competing on cost was a similarly far-flung approach. Regional competitiveness, by contrast, is highly idiosyncratic. Every region has a different set of economic assets, a unique capacity to innovate, its own crop of entrepreneurs, and its own opportunities in global markets.”

“The theory that a region’s growth depends on exploiting its indigenous assets is the critical foundation to regional competitiveness…how regions grow has developed in three distinct strands of economic research. Some economists are focusing on the importance of clusters, suggesting that a concentration of similar firms creates synergies that can fuel growth. Others describe a new economic geography, in which local amenities are critical determinants in creating a pool of skills and capital that can spawn new ideas and businesses and grow a region’s economy. Still others focus more on entrepreneurs and innovation, arguing that fresh technologies and the right climate can lead to a rich seedbed of businesses, spurring economic gains. While each strand has merit in its own right, together they form a strong consensus that regional competitiveness is becoming the accepted model for regional economic growth.”

This research supports the competitive communities model of brainpower, quality place and innovation. Uncovering assets that bring entrepreneurs and higher education to the table of creative collaboration will lead to unique regional ED strategies.

Our current work includes a regional ED strategy built on the music history of the Louisiana Hayride and its neighborhood, where the cultures of south and west collided with the blending of country, blues, gospel and jazz leading to rock-a-billy. The Foundation for Arts Music & Entertainment (FAME) is working with a regional higher education consortium of 12 institutions (CERT) to implement a regional ED plan network of rural and urban communities branded as the “Magic Circle”. To learn more you can download the plan, Shreveport’s Historic Music Village .

posted by Kim | 1:50 PM