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growth pole

  A dynamic and highly integrated set of industries organized around a propulsive leading sector or industry (\'industrie motrice\'). A growth pole is capable of rapid growth and of generating growth through spillover and multiplier effects in the rest of the economy (see multipliers).

The growth pole concept, associated with François Perroux (1955), was translated into spatial terms by J.R. Boudeville (1966). On the bases of external economies and economies of agglomeration, Boudeville argued that the set of industries forming the growth pole (or \'pole de croissance\') might be clustered spatially and linked to an existing urban area. He also pointed to the regionally differentiated growth that such a spatial strategy might generate. The precise meaning of the term \'growth pole\' is difficult to pin down, however, because it is frequently used in a far looser fashion to denote any (planned) spatial clustering of economic activity.

The apparent simplicity of the notion, its suggestion of dynamism and its ability to wed problems of sectorial growth and planning with those of intra- and interregional growth and physical planning led to its ready acceptance and widespread use in urban, regional (see region) and national planning. However there are several difficulties associated with both the idea and practice of growth poles which fall into three broad groups.

First, there are a number of technical problems including: (a) the interdependent decisions to be made on an appropriate location, threshold size and sectorial composition of a growth pole within an urban or regional network of firms. This was not a serious problem for Perroux who defined growth poles around the existence of a single propulsive industry — a dangerous strategy in the longer term — whilst literature based around the idea of industrial districts identifies networks of linked industries as central to urban and regional development; (b) the distinction between spontaneous and planned poles with the need, in the latter case at least, for integrated social and physical planning; (c) the nature of the intersectorial and interregional transmission of growth; (d) the facilitative relationship between state-provided services and infrastructure and the success of the growth pole; (e) the relationships between the pole and the existing, unevenly developed, city distributions; and (f) the need for monitoring and management to avoid dis-economies.

Secondly, the appropriate time span over which to judge success or failure — say, 15-25 years — may be too long in political terms, as elected governments will wish positive results of policy to be clear over the length of the electoral cycle (which is usually less than four years).

Thirdly, the success of a growth pole must depend upon the extent to which it conforms to the productive and reproductive demands of the society in which it is located. The process of production both helps to create and necessarily takes place in an existing landscape. As production itself changes, it makes fresh demands upon the landscape — demands which may not be met within its existing dimensions. As a result the landscape must be changed. A growth pole is a planned insertion into this constantly changing landscape. It must, therefore, combine with what is already there in both physical and functional terms as well as provide an appropriate location for the extension or reorganization of production.

In short, growth poles — like any other planned spatial strategy for production — can never be autonomous of the underlying productive dynamic. As a result they may also generate problems relating to uneven development. Growth poles provide a particularly clear and direct example of the implication of the state in the structure and dynamic of the wider society of which it is an inseparable part. (RL)

References Boudeville, J.R. 1966: Problems of regional economic planning. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Perroux, F. 1955: Note sur la notion de pôle de croissance. Économie Appliquée 7: 307-20.

Suggested Reading Buttler, F.A. 1975: Growth pole theory and economic development. Farnborough/Lexington, MA: Saxon House/ Lexington Press. Dicken, P. and Lloyd, P.E. 1990: Location in space: theoretical perspectives in economic geography. New York and London: Harper and Row, ch. 6.



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