Since the 1950s, regional scientists have been interested in the industrial structure of regional economies and the location decision making of firms and their establishments grouped as industries. In North America and elsewhere, as responsibility for economic development has been devolved onto state/provincial and local governments, researchers and policy makers have developed analytical and decision-making tools to identify key industries and nurture, attract, and retain firms within them. In this chapter, we challenge the narrowness of this industrial focus by exploring the semi-autonomous role of regional labor force formation in regional economic development. First, we review how the spatial division of labor theories, which have been around for several decades, suggest that the occupational structure of an industry in core regions, where management and innovation reside, may differ substantially from the occupational structure of the same industry in other regions. We challenge the notion that only industry managers make important decisions about the location of productive activity, positing that workers also choose where to live and work in a calculus where the firm or industry presence and job offers form only one of several decision criteria. Our basic contention is that an adequate understanding of the spatial differentiation of industries and their activities requires occupational as well as industrial intelligence.
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