A Handbook of Industrial Districts
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A Handbook of Industrial Districts

Edited by Giacomo Becattini, Marco Bellandi and Lisa De Propis

In this comprehensive original reference work, the editors have brought together an unrivalled group of distinguished scholars and practitioners to comment on the historical and contemporary role of industrial districts (IDs).
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Chapter 52: Public Policies for Industrial Districts and Clusters

Mikel Landabaso and Stuart Rosenfeld


Mikel Landabaso and Stuart Rosenfeld* 1. Introduction: iDs and clusters policy in a historical perspective Industrial districts (IDs) and clusters have been central concepts in regional economic development literature for more than two decades, moving into the forefront of the public policy debate in about the mid-1990s. But public authorities responsible for economic development first began to take notice of the advantages of ‘clustering’ and ‘networking’ as early as the 1980s and began to design policies to support and encourage them. At first, networks and clusters were treated as parallel strategies, but by the mid-1990s policymakers understood their connections. Clusters were geographically bounded and specialized economic environments that gave birth to the networks of companies that gave clusters their synergies. IDs, in turn, referred to richer and more complex notions than clusters for policymaking, in which planners had to deal with particular forms of local systems of production, including essential territorial features such as social capital, business culture, governance and institutional issues. The seminal work by Michael Porter in 1990 provided the theoretical framework for ‘clusters’ and legitimized them in economic development pol icy (Porter 1990a). By the end of 1992, both Arizona and Oregon had adopted cluster strategies, and since then cluster policies (Rosenfeld 1995, 2001, 2002; EDA 1997, pp. 1–4)1 have become widely recognized in the US as an efficient organizing framework for economic development (NGA 2007). In Europe, where clusters originated as IDs, there has been a flourishing literature on the impacts of IDs and...

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