The Tholian Web: The Political/Institutional Context of Regional Cluster-Based Economic Development

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Virginia Tech


This is an exploratory study that applies the dominant theories of the community power structure literature to the trend of regional cluster-based economic development policy in order to develop a conceptual framework of the political/institutional context of this "new" approach. In order to develop a framework that can be utilized by practitioners, field studies were conducted in Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina; Lynchburg, Virginia; and Roanoke, Virginia. The findings are that the major community power structure theories (i.e., market model, economic forces, civic culture, regime theory, the growth machine, and civic entrepreneurs) all provide important insights for the adoption of cluster-based policies. Other important factors that need to be considered are the importance of public administrators, performance metrics, state context, institutional arrangements, elected officials, tax structure, and historical path dependency. The implication for public administration is that the role of public administrators is contingent on the nature of the network governance structure.



Community Power Structures, Economic Development, Clusters, Network Governance