Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Regional Studies

Regional Science at Sixty: Traditional Topics and New Directions

Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Regional Studies

Regional Science at Sixty: Traditional Topics and New Directions

Article excerpt

Nonmetropolitan Living

In all urbanizing nations, but especially in the U.S., there continues to be considerable interest in the future of nonmetropolitan areas. These areas include rural areas as well as sub-metropolitan centers, where the latter are commonly called micropolitan in the U.S. if the core urban cluster ranges between 10 000 and 50 000 inhabitants. Rural areas everywhere are especially plagued by high unemployment, widespread poverty, and low job creation rates although there are some pleasant exceptions (Partridge and Rickman, 2007). One very surprising and underappreciated finding is that the economies of both types of sub-metropolitan areas are remarkably heterogeneous (Mulligan and Vias, 2006; U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2006).

Micropolitan areas have generally grown in size because they offer both labour and land costs that are lower than in metropolitan areas. Moreover, as long as these places are not too isolated from national infrastructure both of these savings can be a great incentive to business investment (Kilkenny, 1998). Micropolitan centers actually benefit from the migration streams moving upward from rural areas and downward from larger cities--both of these being streams that seem to behave in a cyclical fashion (Plane et al., 2005; Vias, 2012). Some rural areas and micropolitan places have also grown because of the sorts of amenity-related advantages that were noted above (Rickman and Rickman, 2011).

Much recent interest has turned to the growth prospects of sub-metropolitan areas, where Kilkenny and Partridge (2009) have been especially skeptical of the traditional export base model. Alternatively, as McGranahan et al. (2011) argue, recent growth in the rural U.S. appears to depend upon each county's mix of natural amenities, human capital, and business acumen. They claim that business establishment growth in the U.S. during the 1990s was driven by the interaction of entrepreneurs with the region's creative class, where the latter seem especially attracted to high natural-amenity locations. There is considerable optimism for rural development in some places, but clearly permanent barriers to rural development persist in other areas (Mulligan, 2013)

Regional science practitioners should be especially interested in the research being carried out by resource economists. Resembling some of the work done on eco-demo models back in the 1970s, various new studies address such matters as industry clusters, firm and sector survivorship, and business targeting (Goetz et al., 2009). Some of this work borrows from input-output analysis in identifying candidates for industry targeting or recruiting by identifying input suppliers and product markets for existing industry clusters in the target region. In fact, this approach has a dynamic dimension in that new manufacturing technology typically diffuses through space according to interregional trading linkages. Adopting this logic, Feser et al. (2009) outline the use of interindustry benchmarks in clarifying the niche of a targeted regional economy within the more diversified national economy. There is also room for more research on nonmetropolitan innovation because inventive urbanites typically spend some of their productive lives in non-urban areas and because, as Michael Porter and others have noted, distinctive regional brands can often provide advantages in the development of new product lines.

Post-Event Growth and Development

In the past few decades a somewhat new literature has grown up around modeling regional growth or development following traumatic events. Short-term events include natural disasters like storms, floods, and earthquakes, as well as major human-created accidents involving industry or transportation. Long-term events are, for the most part, created by humans and these include conflicts, wars, and those accidents (e.g., nuclear) with prolonged recovery periods. Studies that address short-term events typically examine specific issues that are most pertinent to resuming growth while studies that address long-term events tend to be more speculative about the possibilities of impacted regions being able to resume their development trajectories. …

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