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An analysis of methods for identifying local import substitution opportunities to foster sustainable regional economies

by David Elvin

  Thesis/dissertation : Document : Thesis/dissertation : eBook   Computer File

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Abstract of thesis   (2009-06-04)

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by PVPCTransit

ABSTRACT: Import substitution presents many economic development opportunities that can

help regions achieve greater economic sustainability and self-reliance. Yet import

substitution is largely neglected in economic development theory, practice and literature.

There are few methods and resources available to planners trying to identify import

substitution opportunities. However, impending economic challenges, such as energy

market instability, climate change and carbon emissions regulation, mean that planners

will be called upon with greater frequency and urgency to help regional economies adapt.


This study offers and evaluates two methods for identifying import substitution

opportunities within a regional economy. The first method is rooted in economic base

theory, the dominant approach to regional economic development since the 1930s. The

second method is derived from industrial cluster analysis, a much-used economic

planning approach since the 1990s. Analysis of these two methods and their application

to the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area suggest that: 1) both

methods show promise as screening tools to help planners focus economic development

resources on subsequent industry research efforts, such as surveys, which are essential to

the development of effective policy initiatives; 2) the industrial cluster analysis method is

capable of identifying a wider range of candidate industries; 3) the economic base theory

method may be more effective in smaller regions; and 4) the economic base theory

method is useful for estimating leakage.


The study also demonstrates that import substitution integrates aspects of

economic base theory, particularly the capability to identify leakage and opportunities to

increase industry multipliers, with the facets of industrial cluster analysis that emphasize

local inter-industry linkages and value chain networks.

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