Regional Economic Competitiveness

State and Local Policy Program
Humphrey School of Public Affairs

301 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Various factors and connections contribute to the economic vitality of a community or region. The State and Local Policy Program seeks to understand these factors and connections, evaluate how they can be leveraged for future growth, and track their progress over time.

This work includes but is not limited to:

  • Establishing region-specific metrics to measure performance in community development and economic competitiveness over time through a regional competitiveness dashboard
  • Applying the frame of industry cluster theory to Minnesota’s most competitive and promising economic clusters – and understanding how human capital, infrastructure, innovation, and institutions all contribute to an ecosystem of economic competitiveness
  • Nurturing rural-metro linkages, such as between rural production and metro-based added value
  • Addressing Minnesota’s labor shortage and how job training, career pipelines, and immigration each play a role in filling vacancies and spurring growth
  • Understanding how transportation investment can spur economic development, how “smart grid” and “smart city” interconnectivity can be leveraged for economic growth and opportunity, and how technology can improve quality of life and service delivery generally, including improvements in traffic congestion, economic productivity, and freight logistics (ie: last-mile delivery)  
  • Promoting constructive dialogue around difficult and divisive issues, such as immigration and Minnesota’s real and perceived rural-metro divide

These efforts build on the State and Local Policy Program’s strong record of effective outreach and education to translate University of Minnesota research, resources, and innovation into sustainable economic growth and shared prosperity throughout the state. 

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Industry clusters

Dynamic and innovative industry clusters are critical for the success of a regional economy. The industry cluster approach has increasingly generated interest among regional, state and national policy leaders. As an analytic tool, it affords a deeper understanding of the local economic base and offers the chance to deploy resources more strategically.

The State and Local Policy Program has conducted regional industry cluster studies throughout Minnesota since 1995, documenting Minnesota’s competitive industry clusters. More recently the program has focused on the role that industry clusters can play in understanding the freight economy and implications for transportation policy. 

Transportation policy & industry clusters

Freight transportation plays a considerable role in economic and community life in Minnesota, but exactly how freight transportation ensures the success of these clusters and enhances the competitiveness of the region is not well understood. To maximize this success, MnDOT and other transportation planners need to plan for and respond to the transportation needs of its customers. One aspect of this effort is to improve knowledge of the characteristics of the industries that make the greatest use of the transportation system, and derive some of the greatest benefits from it. 

SLPP collaborated with Claremont Graduate School to develop an interactive National Freight Economy Atlas, which featured maps and stories about industry clusters and their supply chains. SLPP also collaborated with MnDOT to interview and analyze the perspectives of manufacturers on Minnesota’s transportation system in southwest and west central Minnesota (District 8), west central Minnesota (District 4), and northwest Minnesota (District 2).

US cluster mapping

SLPP was the Midwestern regional partner in developing the U.S. Cluster Mapping website for the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The Humphrey School hosts Mapping the Midwest’s Future: Regional Innovation Clusters and Competitiveness.

Rural knowledge clusters

A number of notable rural success stories suggest the possibility that rural communities can develop their own centers of knowledge-based activity. The rural knowledge cluster framework builds on Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter's "Diamond of Advantage"—Factor Conditions, (Home) Demand Conditions, Related and Supplier Industries and Industry Strategy and Rivalry—by placing added emphasis on the instrumental role of knowledge as the driver of innovation and competitive advantage.

Principles of economic development

Economic development is a concept whose definition often depends on who is doing the talking.  Economists, elected officials, development professionals, and citizens all are likely to have varying perspectives on the subject. The basic framework begins with the assumption that the object of development is to create wealth, whether on a national, regional, or local level.  However, it is here that the many perspectives diverge. For background, the SLPP developed  these 10 Principles in Economic Development.