Economic Clusters–Good or Bad for Maine?


With the Growsmart summit nearly upon us, I came across another myth that is being portrayed by the Brookings report–the myth of government-directed economic clusters. The Brookings report states that “. . . Maine must innovate in how it nurtures the development of its industrial clusters, the prime seedbed of future job-creation . . . the full catalytic potential of Maine’s clusters remains to be unleashed . . . To this end, Maine should establish the Maine Cluster Development Fund to catalyze the growth-producing collaboration in selected industrial clusters.” (p. 103)
But where’s the evidence that government can jump-start these clusters? According to the October 11th edition of The Economist magazine, they conclude in an article titled “The Fading Lustre of Clusters” that “The best thing that governments can do to encourage innovation is to get out of the way.”
More specifically about clusters, the article goes on: “Another problem is that EU officials, like government bureaucrats everywhere, are obsessed with creating geographic clusters like Silicon Valley. The French have poured billions into poles de competitivite; and Singapore, Dubai and other are doing much the same. There are dozens of aspiring clusters worldwide, nicknamed Silicon Fen, Silicon Fjord, Silicon Alley and Silicon Bog. Typically governments pick a promising part of their country, ideally one that has a big university nearby, and provide a pot of money that is meant to kick-start entrepreneurship under the guiding hand of benevolent bureaucrats. It has been an abysmal failure.” (emphasis added)