Industry clusters – the location-based concentrations of firms in related industries – are particularly useful vehicles to help small firms overcome disadvantages resulting from size, isolation, and/or weak linkages and markets. Cluster initiatives help businesses collectively access resource, keep abreast of emerging technologies and management practices, and train workers far better than they could do on their own. They help emerging industries gain a stable footing in the value chain by linking them to networks that promote innovation, information-exchange, cooperation and competition. Given the benefits of agglomeration to local and regional economies and the importance of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in creating jobs and raising incomes, cluster development deserves wider application.
In addition to conducting cluster analysis and evaluating cluster initiatives, we help build the capacity of specialized institutions, such as technical colleges, universities, training providers, industry organizations, development organizations, funders, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies to engage and support clusters. We are particularly interested in the application of cluster initiatives in disinvested regions and finding creative ways to engage both SMEs and microenterprises.
Creative Clusters Linking the arts and craft production to creative clusters has gained currency as locales and regions work to support and attract clusters of artists, designers and other cultural assets. Neighborhoods are being revitalized around artist live-work developments, cities are creating arts districts, technical colleges are carving niches as providers of specialized training and supports for artisan-based development, and creative clusters are concentrating economic activity and helping regions attract high-skilled workers.
Our work in arts and economic development includes evaluating statewide creative cluster initiatives and documenting arts district partnerships. We advocate strategies that preserve indigenous arts and crafts techniques not only as an aesthetic objective, but also as a means of fostering cohesion and social healing in distressed communities.
Arkansas Creative Economy Project Client: Regional Technology Strategies, Inc. Evaluation of the research and technical assistance components of initiative to increase the economic impact of businesses and individuals engaged in the arts and design professions in Arkansas. This three-year, statewide initiative is designed to quantify the creative economy, develop new partnerships, impact the legislative agenda, and stimulate pilot projects within manufacturing networks and community colleges. Funded by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.
Industry Cluster Analysis in Rural Areas Client: Regional Technology Strategies, Inc. Conducted a study of industrial concentration in two regions to assess the nature and structure of industry clusters and the economic impact of agglomeration on regional economies. Examined the houseboat-building cluster in rural Kentucky to understand how clusters evolve and expand and the advantages inherent in small clusters. Examined the vehicle manufacturing industry in Tennessee to assess the extent of cluster spillover into less developed areas. Funded by the Tennessee Valley Authority's Rural Studies Center.
Metropolitan Industry Cluster Analysis Client: Regional Technology Strategies, Inc. This study was designed to map selected industry clusters in the Chicago region to understand how a strong support infrastructure facilitates economic growth and job opportunity. Targeted transportation/logistics/distribution clusters. Methodology included surveys and interviews of employers, business associations, education and training providers, and community organizations that work within and across selected clusters. Funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Industry Analysis: Construction Client: Center for Community Change Conducted a study of the economic and social conditions affecting the construction industry, with an emphasis on mapping its structure and identifying employment barriers and opportunities for minorities, women, and low-income people. Prepared illustrative case studies and documented best practices and tools used to leverage jobs in the building trades and construction.