April 25, 2017Published Article

Industry Clusters as Economic Development Engines

Wisconsin is home to several thriving and growing industry clusters, and support for industry clusters has been one of state government’s most important and successful job creation strategies. An industry cluster is a geographic concentration of similar or related businesses within the same industry that co-locate within a particular region (think Hollywood and the film industry). These concentrations of businesses can create shared economies of scale within the industry; support a thriving start-up culture within the industry to spur innovation in both the business-to-business and business-to-consumer realms; attract capital investment; and link the industry and it’s understanding of current and future consumer needs to the universities and technical colleges which are doing basic research and preparing a pipeline of talented workers for the future. An industry cluster is a great asset to a state and region, by virtue of all the economic activity and growth it can support.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has invested funding and expertise in supporting the growth of industry clusters. Although industry clusters must be led by the private sector to be successful, state government has developed programming through WEDC to support their development. We have thriving clusters in water technology manufacturing, bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing, agricultural services, energy and power controls, and food and beverage processing industries, as well as others. The state legislature is increasingly interested in policy ideas that can help these and other clusters form and grow, including ensuring that the university and technical college system’s priorities include meeting the educational and basic research needs of our industry clusters.

If you’re interested in learning more, visit Cluster Mapping, a website underwritten by Harvard University and the U.S. Department of Commerce. This website includes an interactive cluster map with a wealth of economic data, which begins at the broad level of the entire United States and drills down to the local community level.

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