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Although there is considerable research that describes the evaluation of specific existing economic clusters, there has been precious little discussion on how to systematically go about assembling a robust regional economic cluster in the first place. This paper will change that outcome by providing qualitative frameworks and assessment aids necessary to identify regional strengths and, more importantly, provide the design tools necessary to build an improved regional economy. Doing so will provide economic developers with actionable information in the management of the regional factors over which they have the greatest influence.
The pragmatic challenge for economic development agencies is that the regional studies necessary to evaluate the components of Porter’s Diamond are both expensive and time-consuming to create. There are currently no scalable frameworks available to aid the economic developer in ensuring they are putting their region’s resources into the building blocks of a differentiated cluster versus another one-off project. This paper describes a set of qualitative frameworks that provide the evaluation of a subset of the Porter’s Diamond structure. As design tools, the frameworks identify the missing elements, and then assess the impact and plausibility of acquiring these missing elements. As a result, the frameworks presented in this paper will allow the regional economic development agency to approach its development from a strategic, systems perspective. This work is built upon and extends the research on the qualitative assessment frameworks developed for individual businesses to regional clusters.