Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Stich, Bethany

Committee Member

Shaffer, Stephen D.

Committee Member

Wiseman, William “Marty”

Committee Member

French, P. Edward

Committee Member

Miller, Chad R.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Public Policy and Administration

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Political Science and Public Administration


Regional economic development strategies such as cluster-based development are becoming increasingly popular with policymakers. Yet, the role of government in cluster development and sustainability is not clearly understood. However, network governance theory provides an ideal framework to better understand this role. This research attempts to fill the gap between cluster theory and public administration by testing a political/institutional context model developed by Miller (2006) that attempts to explain the extent of cluster-based economic development policies considering the political/institutional context. A collective case study focusing on the shipbuilding cluster in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi was conducted. A total of 24 in-depth interviews were completed with key informants from economic development organizations, government institutions, and the shipbuilding industry. The major findings of the study indicate that (1) civic entrepreneurs, tax structures, and elected officials are not correlated with the extent of cluster-based policies; (2) the traditionalistic political subculture in the region is a major limiting factor for the development of governance structures suitable for cluster-based economic development and upgrading; (3) participants were highly satisfied with workforce and infrastructure development policies while government activities and programs had the lowest satisfaction; (4) the findings of this study show no support for a clear factor policy grouping as argued by Porter; and (5) network governance theory provides an ideal framework to build governance structures focused on linkages and formal/informal relationships that are more suitable for cluster-based development ameliorating the effects of a traditionalistic political culture. The contributions of this study become more important because of recent threats to the shipbuilding cluster in the Gulf Coast. The ability of government to adapt and facilitate the development and upgrading of the cluster will prove critical for the overall economic and social vitality of the region.