Place Matters is a report from the think tank Center for American Progress that describes the importance of regional or local industrial clusters to economic growth and the creation of new jobs and companies.
Industrial clusters are geographic areas where groups of similar companies concentrate. The best-known cluster is Silicon Valley, but industrial clusters large and small exist in many places around the world.
The consulting firm McKinsey has released an interesting map of global industrial clusters. The map ranks clusters by size and growth rates and illustrates the growing number and diversity of industrial clusters.
Industrial clusters are a hot topic these days. But the economic importance of clusters has been known for a long time. Czar Peter the Great hired British boat builders in an attempt to create a shipping cluster in Russia. And economist Alfred Marshall wrote in the 1890s about the role of industrial clusters.
So, what does this have to do with small business?
Federal, state, and local governments are all creating programs to build and foster industrial clusters. And these efforts are not just focused on high-growth or high-technology companies.
My sleepy, suburban hometown, for example, has created a cluster of restaurants (called restaurant row) that has revitalized the downtown. Many other towns, cities, and regions are promoting industrial clusters by helping small local businesses grow.
Small businesses need to be aware of and take advantage of these programs. A good way to start is looking at your local, county, and state economic development websites.
Steve King is a partner at Emergent Research, where he leads a research project to identify, analyze, and forecast the global trends and shifts affe cting small business. He blogs at www.smallbizlabs.com.