[ Summary ]
Implementing a strategy to boost economic competitiveness
The economic competitiveness of the business firms in a rural area
is a prerequisite for the area’s economic competitiveness, but is
not sufficient in itself.
3.1 From corporate economic competitiveness to territorial
The most common approach is to view economic competitiveness from
the corporate angle. Furthermore, there are numerous proven ways and
means for developing and implementing strategies to enable business
firms to acquire economic competitiveness.
However, the search for territorial economic competitiveness goes
much further than this. The table at the end of the previous chapter
illustrates the differences and complementarities between the two
sides of the economic competitiveness concept.
The economic competitiveness of the enterprises in a rural area is
therefore a prerequisite for the area’s economic competitiveness,
but it is not sufficient in itself. Other elements also need to be
taken into account. Below are a few examples:
- integrating all of an area’s resources;
- promoting an area’s common distinctive features in order to
differentiate products and create market opportunities;
- strengthening corporate ties to an area in order to increase
a) Integrating every one of an area’s resources into a development
In a differentiated territorial approach, all of an area’s
components become potential “resources”. Intervention strategies can
be developed to:
- prevent business activities from being concentrated on limited
resources and sites;
- promote the environment (preservation of natural resources)
and the identities fostered by social traditions and allegiances;
- create “variable geometry” partnerships to encourage the
emergence of new ideas and new products.
The Isle of Lewis (Scotland) has an abundance of environmental
resources and a rich cultural heritage. The druid stones of Calanais
represent one of Scotland’s finest examples of late Neolithic
architecture. The site was developed after more than two years of
consultations. The 11 organisations and interest groups involved in
the project each had their own views on the way in which the site
ought to be developed. However, one thing they all shared was the
desire to find a solution for managing the site to enable the region
to draw benefits from tourism. The Western Isles LEADER group played
the role of catalyst in setting up the forms of cooperation needed
to achieve concerted action from the various players involved. A
limited liability company was created to manage a cultural heritage
centre and tourist information point. Its board of directors is
comprised of representatives from the chief financial partners and
the local community.
b) Promoting an area’s distinctive features in order to
differentiate products and create market opportunities
Traditions, landscapes, architecture and know-how can all become
elements that differentiate an area’s products. Emphasising an
area’s “shared assets” also means fostering the emergence of the
collective-innovation concept and practices.
This approach can also be effective in encouraging the ability to
create and develop links between the area and the test centres
seeking solutions to match the area’s resources to consumer demands
and quality requirements.
So, promoting an area’s distinctive features becomes a key element
of a bottom-up development strategy in which the knowledge and
culture of the area’s entrepreneurs leads to proposals for change
c) Strengthening corporate ties to an area in order to increase
non-relocateable local resources
How can an area hold onto its business firms and secure a certain
competitive advantage once it has promoted its distinctive features?
By what means can it ensure that business firms and activities
become non-relocateable? Two parallel approaches may be required:
- raising local players’ awareness about and acknowledgement of
the special features of their area and culture that may interest
- fostering the ability to renew, update and continually adapt
products and services because, whatever the type of activity or
product, no matter how distinctive, staying in the market calls for
a constant quality effort.
In the Vinschgau/Val Venosta LEADER area (Trentino-Alto-Adige,
Italy), hotelkeepers are not content to merely preserve their area’s
special aesthetic and other traditional features (this Italian area
is mostly German-speaking), but they also update the region’s
gastronomic offering. For example, they adapt traditional recipes to
suit vegetarians or cook with local organic produce.
Most LEADER groups use a range of means (regional labels and quality
charters, thematic routes, tourist trails, visitors’ centres, etc.)
to reinforce the non-relocateable elements of an area’s business
activities, by involving the local community and entrepreneurs.