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Economic Development in Rural Areas

The economic performance of rural areas is lagging that of urban areas in the United States and also in many other parts of the world. While there have been many efforts to foster economic development in rural areas involving substantial public and private investments, most have failed. There is a pressing and widely recognized need for new approaches to rural economic development, drawing on broader learning about the sources of competitiveness in the global economy. Attempting to mitigate the generic deficiencies of regions will not be sufficient. Instead, each rural region needs a distinctive strategy that reflects its unique strengths, its particular mix of clusters, and which integrates its economy with the closest urban centers.

Framework Publications Related Content

Competitiveness in U.S. Rural Regions: Learning and Research Agenda (pdf)
     Michael E. Porter with Christian H.M. Ketels, Kaia Miller,
     and Richard T. Bryden
     February 25, 2004

Advances in thinking on competitiveness and regional economic development over the last decade provide an opportunity to now examine rural regions in new ways. The Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School has undertaken a long-term project on the competitiveness of rural areas, drawing on its expertise in studying competitiveness more generally in national, state, and regional economies as well as in economically distressed urban areas. In addition to the theoretical framework and body of case studies drawn from previous research, we also utilize a unique data set on U.S. economic geography to investigate the economic performance and composition of rural regions statistically.

This report summarizes a selective, interpretative review of the literature on the economic performance, the composition and evolution of rural economies in the United States, the nature of the business environment in rural regions, and evidence on the role of clusters in these areas. This report also briefly reviews U.S. policies towards rural regions and the institutional network serving them. Finally, it summarizes the policy recommendations for rural regions in the literature. In each section of the report, we offer our recommendations for future research. The report concludes with our interpretation of the state of rural competitiveness and highlights the opportunity to take rural policy to the next stage.



Rural Clusters of Innovation: Berkshires Strategy Project
Driving a Long-Term Economic Strategy

     Monitor Group
     Michael E. Porter, Senior Advisor

EDA Launch Event
The U.S. Economic Development Agency hosted an event on June 29, 2004
to announce the publication of Prof. Porter's report "Competitiveness in U.S. Rural Regions: Learning and Research Agenda."

Available here are the slides from Prof. Porter's presentation at the event as well as a full webcast of the event's activities:

Presentation slides (pdf)

Webcast, part 1  (1 hour, 14 minutes total)
Introduction by David A. Sampson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development and presentation by Michael Porter

Webcast, part 2  (1 hour, 17 minutes total)
Luis Luna - Deputy Administrator of the Office of Community Development
, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development mission area

R. Drabenstott, Vice President and Director Center for the Study of Rural America, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

Charles W. Fluharty - Director, Rural Policy Research Institute

Art Garcia - Director, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund

Closing remarks by Michael Porter and Q&A.

In the News

Harvard on Rural

     Thomas D. Rowley
     Rural Policy Research Institute
     July 5, 2004

Highlights from the Porter Rural Report
      EDA Update Vol. 1 No. 5
March 5, 2004

Clusters for rural health -
July 28, 2004
Clusters can, do transform rural economies - Sept. 5, 2004
     Grand Forks Herald

Competitiveness in Rural Regions
     Christian Ketels
     Economic Development America - Summer 2004


Generating Local Wealth, Opportunity, and Sustainability through Rural Clusters

     Regional Technology Strategies, Inc.
     March 2009


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