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Rethinking industrial policy: Impacts on industrial communities in New England

Zenia Kotval, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The literature on industrial policy and managing economic development, typically, has focused on the role of the federal government, and more recently, on that of state governments. However, policies of the federal government and the specific development initiatives of state governments are not the whole story of economic management. Throughout the country, local government officials, working jointly with business and citizen groups, are actively engaged in local economic development, some more successfully than others. The hypothesis of this dissertation is that industrial policies at the national and state level have limited direct impact on local economic development in New England. The research is essentially exploratory in nature. The dissertation begins by examining the theoretical framework for the industrial policy debate at both the national and state levels. Industrial policies, implicit and explicit, are analyzed at the national, state and local levels. The case-study approach, involving one industrial community in each of the six New England states, formed the basis of the research. Each of the six communities chosen exhibited a similar industrial heritage as well as socio-economic characteristics. The expectation was that communities with like conditions, population growth, employment characteristics, industrial mix, education, skill levels and income characteristics, would react similarly to opportunities and change. This, however, was not the case. The principal research findings are that there are disconnections between industrial policies at the national, state and local levels. Although national and state industrial policies tend to address similar issues they approach them from very different perspectives, thereby achieving varied results. Furthermore, state and local policy makers are particularly conscious of political boundaries often leading to insular and parochial policies. Measurable indicators, such as unemployment rates, tax revenue, and income levels, offer only a limited explanation for economic strength within a community. Qualitative factors such as leadership, motivation, timely institutional responsiveness, local development capacity, sensitivity to labor force dynamics, positive attitudes toward development efforts and sensitivity to community history, and political and social culture, appear to play a more significant role in local economic development than do "top-down" industrial policies.

Subject Area

Urban planning|Area planning & development|Inservice training|Economic theory

Recommended Citation

Kotval, Zenia, "Rethinking industrial policy: Impacts on industrial communities in New England" (1994). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9434501.