The US Economic Development Administration, in partnership with Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan, have recently released an interactive database which maps ‘clusters’ throughout the country right down to the county level (see clustermapping.us). Clusters are agglomerations, or a critical mass, of business activity in a given industry (e.g. Wall Street, Hollywood, Silicon Valley). The major benefit from clusters are productivity improvements and knowledge spillovers from having businesses located in the same area.
Clusters have a snowballing effect in that once a critical mass of business activity is reached, it catalyses more businesses and associated industries to locate in a particular region. In this way, can be a powerful driver of economic growth. The clusters in the website reveal the competitive advantages of local, regional and state economies throughout the US. The data is aimed at providing a basis for economic development strategies throughout the country. For example, in Boston there is specialised strategic infrastructure, particularly in terms of the world-class universities. This has allowed specialised hospitals and research institutions to develop, meaning that there is a large innovation in biological and pharmaceutical products. This strategic infrastructure has attracted complementary industries such as specialised business services and risk capital, which facilitate the development of goods such as health and beauty products, and specialised medical goods and services.