As simple as it seems, cluster strategies start with selecting the right cluster. Based upon our experience in helping communities to effectively grow clusters, consider these four points when selecting a cluster to target for your community, state or region. First and foremost, conduct an assessment to understand your ecosystem and economy. Utilize both quantitative and qualitative data to determine whether clusters exist in your community, and then identity the ones that offer a competitive advantage. Second, select clusters that are actionable. Your assessment may have identified more than one cluster that offers competitive advantage, but not all of the clusters will lend themselves to strategies that can be implemented. The ability to implement is helped or hindered by resources and capabilities. Also, choose those clusters that you have the ability to act upon in a timely manner. Third, select clusters that will have community support. Your stakeholders—including economic development and public officials, the business community, and residents–must be willing to rally around the selected clusters. They must not only be supportive of growing the identified clusters in your community, but also be willing to play an active role in doing so. If they are not supportive at the onset, can you build consensus among them going forward? Finally, as economic developers, it is important to choose clusters that would be impactful. Pick a cluster (or clusters) that would have the greatest potential impact on your local economy. The impact measures may include jobs (high skill/high pay, jobs for residents), technology commercialization, leveraging of local innovation assets, retention of local businesses, generation of tax revenues, economic opportunity, etc. Establish the impact metrics from the start. Not only does making an impactful choice benefit the entire community, but it also is an efficient use of local resources. Follow these four points when selecting a cluster for targeting and you’ll be on the right path.
- Improving cluster performance through entrepreneurial support programs
- Second Stage Companies: What’s All the Buzz About?
- Targeting early stage companies with the right entrepreneurial support model (to create and grow successful businesses)
- What is the value of a Startup Weekend? (Hint: It’s not starting businesses.)
- Incubation is the right model for a “Grow Your Own” strategy (Part Two)