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Occasional Paper

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Following up on his important work on the competitive advantage of nations, economist Michael Porter has turned his attention to the competitive advantage of the inner city. In his work on the competitiveness of nations—a five-year study often leading trading nations—Porter found that no nation was competitive in everything. He noted that competitive success tends to concentrate in particular industries and groups of interconnected industries, or clusters.

By turning his attention on the inner city, Porter has helped to reinforce the emerging sense that it is important to concentrate on the assets of such locations rather than on their liabilities. This perspective differs from the social welfare model which focuses on the liabilities of the inner city as opposed to its assets. In looking at the competitive advantage of the inner city, it is important to note that such neighborhoods are predominantly made up of racial and ethnic minorities, and have suffered from levels of disinvestment and social disorganization not common in other locales. It is also clear that the bettering of economic conditions is quite important to residents of such communities and, specifically to African-American residents of inner city neighborhoods, the bettering of economic conditions has been a priority for at least five decades. 3 This priority was revealed strongly in the author's book entitled, Cities, Suburbs and Blacks (with James E. Blackwell).

In examining Porter's model on the competitive advantage of the inner city for business development, I will consider as well the impact of race on business and economic development in inner cities. In so doing, I will compare and contrast Porter's work with those of authors such as Cornel West, James Blackwell, Timothy Bates, and my own work. It is my goal to gain a preliminary understanding ofthe viability of Porter's model when the seemingly intractable variable of race is in the mix. Further, I seek to determine whether Porter's model can accelerate the growth and development of business opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities who remain the primary residents of inner city neighborhoods throughout the United States.


This Occasional Paper is based on an analysis of economist Michael Porter's work on the competitive advantage of nations in relation to the inner city.

Occasional Paper No. 33


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