Guest blog post by Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development
Earlier this week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced the launch of the U.S. Cluster Mapping and Registry project, a national economic initiative based at Harvard Business School’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness and supported by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The U.S. Cluster Mapping and Registry project aims to strengthen U.S. competitiveness by understanding the economic performance of clusters and regions across the United States.
EDA staff gets inquiries daily from different organizations looking for grant information. Every community we speak with has a plan it is developing to spur economic growth and create jobs. Some are more fleshed out that others, but EDA’s advice is always the same: look at the resources in your community and make sure this project fits with the economic strengths of your area. In short, identify your regional clusters.
Clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected industries and supportive organizations that make regions uniquely competitive for jobs and private investment – like the automotive cluster in the South and the biotech cluster in the Northeast. Clusters are not top-down formulas aimed at being a panacea for all economic development needs. Nor are they intended to serve as a litmus test for qualifying or strictly characterizing good or bad projects. Clusters thrive and are critical in both urban and rural communities and provide a framework for understanding regional competitiveness and drivers of private investment and job creation. They also help identify and prioritize opportunities for public investment and provide a platform for linking, leveraging, and aligning federal or state programs to get a better return on investment of taxpayer funds.
The interactive website offers access to cluster data and regional statistics covering the entire U.S. economy across 30 different economic indicators. The registry also offers a community network for users to contribute resources and news about economic development, policy, and innovation; identify partners; and share and discuss best practices and activities. The registry is open to all organizations, and there are already more than 1,200 organizations participating in the network.
The U.S. Cluster Map & Registry provides new insights on the role of clusters in driving regional economic outcomes. It looks at the regions whose clusters are denser than average to identify national clusters. Making this cluster data available will assist communities seeking to do economic development, businesses looking to expand, and researchers hoping to better understand regional economic drivers.
The Cluster Mapping project has already helped a variety of businesses and public and private institutions. For example, the Dalton State College’s School of Business has used the tool to analyze clusters of industries that illustrate the importance of transportation and logistics to the area.
EDA is proud to launch this next tool in our economic development arsenal. The projects EDA funds help communities grow and strengthen their local and regional economies. However, funding without an informed plan can’t drive meaningful economic development. This tool reinforces the federal government’s commitment to promote America’s clusters and provide businesses and organizations with the data and strategies they need to capitalize on their region’s assets.