Business News for the Columbia River Gorge


Mid-Columbia Economic Development District
Cluster Development Project
- upd jan 2005

"Clusters arise because they increase the productivity with which companies can compete."

Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review

Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (MCEDD), in conjunction with regional stakeholders, has identified five industries targeted for cluster development in the gorge. These industries are considered viable 'cluster industries' for the region. They include:

· Natural Healthcare
· Renewable Energies
· High Tech
· Wine
· Arts & Entertainment

Through a grant provided by the federal Economic Development Agency (EDA), all of the rural Oregon Economic Development Districts (OEDD) provide guidance and leadership for cluster creation in their regions.

Harvard economist Michael E. Porter formulated the Cluster strategy. Porter explains:

"Clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers, and associated institutions in a particular field that are present in a nation or region. Clusters arise because they increase the productivity with which companies can compete."

"OEDD had heard of successes with cluster development in Humboldt County, CA," explained Kate Dugan, a RARE participant with MCEDD. "It took a year and half to get the funding, but now it's a statewide effort for all rural EDAs."

MCEDD identified potential clusters through several means, including the Gorge Telecommunications Plan (see prior article), MCEDD Board members, and conversations with many other regional partners and business leaders.

The process for kick-starting cluster development includes three meetings for each cluster. Participants for the meetings are limited to 8 to 12 people so that the meetings are manageable. The first meeting identifies the effects of the industry in the gorge, including the benefits and challenges.

The second meeting is used to discuss methods to overcome the challenges and identify tangible short-term and long-term tasks. Between the second and third meetings, MCEDD drafts a work plan with three to five short-term goals.

In the third and final official meeting, the participants prioritize the tasks and assign responsibilities.

"We hope it'll take on a life of it's own after that," said Dugan.

"We've had two meetings so far for the Natural Healthcare cluster," added Dugan. "We're energized by how into it people are."

The first renewable energy meeting will be held next week and the first high tech cluster meeting occurs the following week.

"After the three meetings are completed for each cluster, we will take the plan to the broader community," said Dugan.

For more on cluster development, see http://www.isc.hbs.edu/econ-clusters.htm.
For more about MCEDD, see www.mcedd.org.
For more about Oregon Economic Development Districts, see http://www.ruralpolicy.org/RSI/rsi/odd.html.

For more information about MCEDD's cluster development effort, contact Kate Dugan at 541.296.2266.

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