Local Capacity and Industrial Restructuring in the Periphery of Belgium and France
Bruno Henry de Frahan, Pierre Dupraz, and Béatrice Van Haeperen
Some European Union (EU) member countries have been much more successful at creating rural job growth than others. There are 195 regions designated as "rural" in the European Union. Almost one-third of these rural regions have a nonagricultural employment annual growth rate .5 percent above the national growth rate, while 49 regions are .25 percent below the national growth rate ( Esposti et al. 1999). The capacity of local leaders to design and implement employment growth strategies has been shown to be particularly relevant ( Von Meyer et al. 1999) in explaining some of the differences among these regions. This case study explores the specific role of local capacity in generating and sustaining employment growth.
This case study starts with a comparison of two contiguous rural regions similar in terms of resource endowment and rural amenities. Both regions were faced with industrial restructuring in the 1980s; one region's employment grew much faster. To contrast the two rural regions, a territorial approach and a "strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT)" analysis are used. The territorial approach views the rural region as a geographic and socioeconomic entity with relatively low population density. The SWOT analysis lists strengths and weaknesses of the rural regions in sustaining employment growth, and also examines the opportunities and threats within or outside the rural regions that may affect employment growth in the near future. Section 2 provides an overview of the two regions, with special emphasis on