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Connecticut's Industry Cluster Initiative

The Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) partnered with CERC in 1999 during the process of adopting and developing the Connecticut Industry Cluster Initiative, the state's strategy for conducting economic development.

Based on a theory of encouraging the growth of key industry clusters and strengthening economic foundations, the Cluster Initiative includes such efforts as developing the workforce and training opportunities, implementing lean techniques, public policymaking and marketing. One important element of the initiative has been the Inner City Business Strategy, which strives to bring about urban revitalization through business development and to increase the income, wealth and job opportunities of inner-city residents. Overall, a collaboration between the public and private sectors is important to the success of this initiative.

As a pioneer in utilizing the cluster concept as a basis for economic development, Connecticut needed to craft its initial efforts without any record of past examples of success. Another potential obstacle was that industries normally competing with each other were asked to join forces and work collaboratively to generate a synergy leading to continuous improvement, an abundance of good jobs and a stable economy. As for the "big picture," the Industry Cluster Initiative is comprised of numerous components with many focuses, all linked together by a central theory for a common purpose. Awareness of this big-picture connection from industry to industry and across the state's regions is critical to keeping the initiative successful and continuous.

To date, eight clusters have been formally launched by DECD, with a ninth naturally occurring cluster - Tourism - already operating successfully as a state office. Launching each cluster involved a variety of public relations efforts, including press events for which CERC provided public relations services and support. Additionally, in promoting the Cluster Initiative and its Inner City Business Strategy, CERC has managed event coordination; production of collateral, including communication to legislators and key executives regarding industry cluster progress; Web site development and maintenance; and assistance with marketing strategies. CERC's research team has provided analytic and data support to existing clusters on behalf of DECD and continues to help identify potential new clusters through broader analyses. CERC's partnership with DECD also involves leveraging relationships with organizations that can provide non-monetary support for promoting this economic development initiative - an important factor in making the initiative a supported and prosperous effort between the public and private sectors.

Connecticut's Industry Cluster Initiative has become a successful, long-term, multifaceted effort that positions Connecticut as a leader among states that have adopted cluster-based economic development. In 2001, DECD's efforts were among those recognized by Business Facilities magazine as driving forces behind U.S. economic growth in the magazine's annual Economic Development Achievement Awards. DECD received a Silver Award in the category of Statewide Economic Development Strategy for the innovation and effectiveness of the Industry Cluster Initiative. In 2002, Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter, who championed the cluster theory, created a case study for Harvard students around the world that used Connecticut as the central focus. In 2003, Connecticut's Industry Cluster Initiative was a finalist in the U.S. Economic Development Administration's Excellence in Economic Development Awards.

For more information on the Industry Cluster Initiative, please visit this section of the You Belong in Connecticut web site.