the sectors.” The application of a cluster strategy in the context of transitional economies must be paired with a broader economic restructuring.
The Greater Ohio Policy Center, Ms. Brachman said, thought of itself as the “smart growth” organization, with a mission of “promoting public policy to grow Ohio’s economy and improve the quality of life through intelligent land use.”
Initially, Ms. Brachman said, the group began with a study of sprawl and urban core revitalization. But when it joined with Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, it saw that land use challenges could only be addressed after examining the local economies and determine why they were not growing. Last February it issued a report, “Restoring Prosperity,” with 39 policy recommendations, beginning with “Ohio can compete in the next economy.”11 The report concluded that “metro areas and regions will drive that economy,” but that substantial improvements in governance must be made if positive changes are to be affected.
Ms. Brachman offered the working definition of clusters as “geographic concentrations of interconnected firms and supporting or coordinated organizations.” She said that a cluster could be an effective tool to jumpstart the economy, “but it’s not a panacea. Emerging clusters should be supported only when they can be justified by data.”
Among the general challenges she saw were that “transferring knowledge is a complicated process,” as is knowing where to intervene and when to bring products to market. It is difficult to find a fit between university research strengths and local economic structures, a problem that “can’t be solved entirely by a cluster approach.” Finally, it is difficult to generate win-win strategies that can both benefit institutions and transform the community.
A Challenging Business Climate
Certain features of Ohio, Ms. Brachman said, made for a challenging business climate. First, the extent of economic decline, she said, was “unparalleled.” There is also an unusual diversity of regional economies. The seven or so major metropolitan areas were all grounded in specific, mostly different industries: Dayton specialized in autos, Toledo in glass, Youngstown in rubber, and so on. “We’re sort of stuck with older economies that still exist. With the layering on top of those older industries, it is harder to identify the key growing clusters.” It is also a challenge to connect regional economic growth and the power of the metros with neighborhood revitalization. The cities have emptied out, leaving high concentrations of poverty. For example the population of Cleveland dropped from 900,000 to 400,000 between 1950 and 2010, the population of Cincinnati from 500,000 to 300,000. A disconnect persists between skill level and job creation, and a fragmentation of government reduces
11Jennifer Vey et al., “Restoring Prosperity: Greater Ohio and the Brookings Institution,” Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2010.