Customizing the Cluster Definitions
Why does the U.S. Cluster Mapping site use uniform cluster definitions? If I did not see my regional cluster in your definitions, how can I use the data to understand my cluster as it is defined regionally?
The cluster definitions presented on this website cover all industries of the U.S. economy that have been classified by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Please take a look at the appendices available under Cluster Mapping Methodology to find the best match for your cluster or industry.
The value this project brings is to define a set of standardized national clusters, which allow objective identification of the competitive position of clusters in a region, as well as comparisons and relative performance measurement between any regions in the United States. This ability to compare clusters in one region to another is crucial for understanding and improving the competitiveness of a regional economy. Observations of the patterns of industry clustering across the United States may reveal unique advantages, disadvantages, and opportunities in a region. From these national strengths, regions can dig deeper using local knowledge to identify their "region-specific clusters." The Organizations map helps to provide information on these region-specific clusters, as many of the initiatives focus on these more specific sectors.
Looking at the national patterns, a specific regional cluster is often not represented enough to be its own U.S. cluster category, which is why it does not appear in the data on the site. That said, a specific regional cluster can be very important to a local economy. A specific region can have a specialization in a particular sector that involves the collaboration of firms, universities, and government. These clusters usually arise out of a region’s particular strengths in its benchmark clusters. For example, the optics/photonics region-specific cluster in Rochester, NY likely comes out of Rochester’s benchmark clusters such as Medical Devices, Information Technology and Analytical Instruments, Education and Knowledge Creation, and Communications Equipment and Services. However, because optics/photonics is specific to Rochester, it cannot be compared to any other cluster directly.
Some regional cluster efforts focus on a particular segment of a benchmark cluster. For example, the automotive supplier cluster in Charleston, SC fits into the Automotive cluster category. You can review the subcluster data in the cluster appendices to find out more, both in terms of your own cluster and in terms of relevant competing regional clusters. In this case, the U.S. benchmark clusters allude to potential opportunities for broadening the scope of a regional cluster effort.
Other regional cluster efforts cover a broader set of industries that includes the industries of one benchmark cluster as well as additional industries from other benchmark clusters. These extra industries tend to have strong linkages to the core benchmark clusters in a region, yet the linkages are much weaker or non-existent when viewed across all U.S. regions. For example, although venture capital and legal services industries are not part of the Information Technology & Analytical Instruments cluster category, these industries are strongly integrated into Boston, MA's IT cluster. Therefore, it would make sense for a user of this website to include venture capital and legal services industries in an analysis of Boston's IT cluster. But including them in a comparative study of IT clusters across U.S. regions would be misleading, because the cluster mapping methodology shows that there are no meaningful systematic linkages between venture capital, legal services, and IT across all U.S. regions.
A third group includes regional cluster efforts that capture emerging or suspected new groupings of clusters and industries. An example is the bioeconomy cluster in San Francisco that connects the Upstream Chemical Products, Wood Products, and Forestry benchmark clusters. Another example is the e-mobility cluster in Oregon, which includes elements of the Automotive, Electric Power, and IT benchmark clusters. Another example is the maritime technology or "blue tech" cluster in San Diego. Some of these cluster-to-cluster linkages are already strong enough to be captured in our data on related clusters. Others still have to meet the market test to show whether they will have a sufficiently strong impact on patterns of economic geography.
The differences between a focus on national comparability vs. regional unique fit are primarily a reflection of different objectives. Given our focus on the national economy and national comparability, we allocate each industry completely to one cluster category by establishing the set of cluster definitions that are the best fit for the data across all regions. At a fundamental level, the benchmark clusters have been designed to facilitate meaningful cross-region analyses by representing the linkages across industries as they are revealed in the data across all regions. They allow for systematic comparisons and work against the tendency of "over-reporting" regional cluster size by adding only tangentially related industries. The comparability comes at the cost of missing out on regional peculiarities that do exist. We are looking into website functionality that would allow users to make such region-specific adjustments. We are also working on additional tools to capture linkages across clusters; while these are by design weaker on average than the linkages within a cluster, they will capture many of the somewhat related clusters and industries that are part of broader cluster efforts at the regional level.