Talk of clusters dominates New North Summit

Posted on Dec 8, 2011 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive.
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If you had to pick one word to sum up Wednesday’s New North Summit at the Radisson in Green Bay, cluster would be a good choice.

From the keynote speaker, Rebecca Bagley, who talked about how her organization, NorTech, has successfully formed clusters in northeastern Ohio to a panel discussion with three New North business leaders, cluster was the topic du jour. That’s because clusters have proven to be a successful tool in growing economies, says Bagley, who is president and CEO of NorTech.

“Industry clusters help businesses of all sizes – from major corporations to small businesses,” she says. “Everyone benefits.”

Those thoughts were echoed by Duane Rohem, vice president of manufacturing at Marinette Marine Corp., during the panel discussion about industry clusters. He says the ship builders’ success is tied directly to the companies who provide it with parts and services.

“We would much rather work with a company in our area than one on the East or West Coast. We get better service and faster turnaround,” he says. “There’s also a lower cost since the product doesn’t need to travel as far.”

Marinette Marine was instrumental in starting the New North’s latest cluster – the North Coast Marine Alliance. That group pulls together ship builders throughout the New North and their supply chains along with educational institutions.

In addition to the marine cluster, other successful clusters in the region have been formed about wind and paper and packaging.

But more work can be done, Bagley says. For example NorTech is working hard to uncover potential clusters in emerging industries. “We’re always trying to think about new technologies,” she says. “I think the national economy will only rebound through the efforts we’re making on a local level.”

In addition to Bagley’s keynote address and the panel discussion on industry clusters, the more than 900 people attending this year’s summit also had the opportunity to attend a variety of afternoon breakout sessions and sample food from entrepreneurs throughout the New North.

For more information on the New North and its successes during the past year, please click here to read its annual report.