INDIANAPOLIS, July 25, 2018 – A new report from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program argues that initiatives to support and grow industry clusters remain a potentially powerful strategy to jumpstart local economic growth, but only if certain market and civic fundamentals are in place. The report, Rethinking cluster initiativesby Ryan Donahue, Brookings fellow Joseph Parilla, and Brookings nonresident senior fellow Brad McDearman, takes a fresh look at the concept of industry clusters—groups of firms that gain a competitive advantage through local proximity and interdependence—and offers practical guidance for metropolitan leaders considering investments in cluster initiatives, drawing on five in-depth case studies. The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) is cited as a successful model and national case study.

The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership is unique and special– in our structure, the quality of our board membership, the talents of our professional staff, the strength of our diverse sources of financial support, and the energy behind our many collaborations and essential projects. CICP and our six talent and industry sector initiatives are providing both the workshop to develop and then the runway to launch the best collaborative opportunities for our region’s future success,” David L. Johnson, president and CEO, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership said. “We’re honored that Brookings Institution has featured our organization as a success story in their new report.”

According to the report’s authors, regions grow based on their ability to provide environments where firms want to cluster and concentrate, and therefore cluster initiatives offer one justifiable foundation to lay long-term economic development strategies. But implementing cluster initiatives is challenging. It requires significant institutional and financial commitment, and local, regional, and state leaders must correctly identify industry specializations, prioritize investments in them, and organize strong public-private partnerships to facilitate and sustain cluster initiatives as a long-term economic development strategy. Accordingly, the report aims to help regional leaders confidently and knowledgably pursue cluster initiatives where they make sense; and where they do not, recognize that there are potentially equally powerful alternatives.

“CICP is the rare organization that is not devoted to a single issue or cluster, but rather has developed the reputation and abilities to seed several well-respected initiatives over time,” Joseph Parilla, co-author said. “It remains one of the most impactful business and civic leadership organizations in the nation, and has become a durable institution because it values professional and technical guidance, continuous assessment and learning, and rapid adaptation, if necessary.”

The authors note five distinct traits of successful cluster initiatives:

  1. Focused on establishing a robust ecosystem, not job gains
  2. Industry-driven, university-fueled, government-funded
  3. Placing a collective big bet on a unique opportunity
  4. Championed by passionate, dedicated leaders
  5. Anchored by a physical center

The paper draws on a literature review, interviews with cluster experts, and five in-depth case studies that reflect successful cluster initiatives focused on diverse industries, including life sciences and agbiosciences (Central Indiana), water technology (Milwaukee), agricultural technology (St. Louis), unmanned aerial systems (Syracuse) and the automotive industry (Upstate, South Carolina).

The report is available at:

The CICP case study can be viewed here.

The Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings delivers research and solutions to help metropolitan leaders build an advanced economy that works for all. To learn more, please visit Follow us on Twitter at

About Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP)

The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) was formed in 1999 to bring together the chief executives of Central Indiana’s prominent corporations, foundations and universities in a strategic and collaborative effort dedicated to the region’s continued prosperity and growth. To advance this mission, CICP sponsors six key talent and industry sector initiatives, AgriNovus IndianaAscend IndianaBioCrossroadsConexus IndianaEnergy Systems Network and TechPoint, each of which addresses challenges and opportunities unique to its respective area: agriculture innovation, workforce development, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and logistics, energy technology and information technology. To learn more about CICP, visit