A recent Brookings article challenges EDOs to ask themselves, “What truly makes your economy unique?” As the author points out, many EDOs will claim:
“…to have specializations in six or more sectors, for example, when invariably some of these are aspirational, and others, like biotech and advanced manufacturing, might also be claimed as unique strengths by dozens of other cities. The metro areas poised for success in global trade and investment recognize that just one or two of these specializations actually qualify as unique on a global scale and are placing them at the core of their strategies.”
For example, Minneapolis-St. Paul has long been a center for health and wellness, which has given birth to a unique medical technology cluster. This realization allows the Twin Cities to take a laser-focus when recruiting foreign investment.
Not just for large metros, specialized clusters can be as small and niche as one’s imagination can extend. Reading, Ohio, is home to more than 25 wedding-related businesses within a two-mile radius. The local chamber of commerce provides specialized services to the Reading Bridal District. Ogden, Utah, already known as an outdoor sports destination, is using this reputation to build a bicycle cluster (Utah Policy). The region’s natural splendor aids FDI efforts; Ogden’s mayor once led 30 Asian-cycling company CEOs on a six-day, 420-mile tour of Utah.