The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City recently published “Accelerating Cluster Growth: A Playbook for City Leaders” (PDF). The report offers practical guidance and case studies on growing industry clusters, including six practices all cluster strategies should follow.
- Identify your region’s competitive assets. Trying to mechanically replicate another city’s success is ill-advised. A cluster growth strategy must be true to regional assets and capabilities.
- Engage diverse stakeholders. Cluster initiatives may generate within the private or public sector; what’s important is that all actors are on the same page.
- Develop strong public-private partnership organizations to lead cluster initiatives. Cluster partnerships can take many different forms. Many are organized by EDOs but can also be directed by independent nonprofits and university-based centers.
- Utilize cluster diagnostics to define cluster growth strategies. Growth strategies should be comprehensive and have the ability to identify and address weaknesses.
- Use cluster initiatives to replace scattered, disconnected approaches to economic growth. Cluster-focused growth strategies can unite disparate economic development initiatives under an overarching apparatus and maximize impact.
- Move cluster initiatives to self-sufficiency. Public funding often covers the first year of operation, but cluster initiatives must develop a sustainable business model with funding security for long-term viability.
Also: EMSI recently profiled Dayton, Ohio’s BRE program, which uses a data-driven scorecard to identify high-impact and at-risk companies within its clusters. The scorecard first looks at demand for jobs, significance to the local economy, and the presence of a champion (e.g., a trade association or business advocate) to evaluate cluster strengths. It then looks at the cluster’s career pathways, such as job-multiplier potential and level of wages. Finally, the scorecard assesses immediacy of demand and whether there are workforce gaps its partners can help fill.