Economic Competitiveness: Firms, Clusters & Economic Development, PA 5590

Spring Semester 2017 · 3 Credits
Thursdays, 6:00  8:45 p. m.
Room 184 Humphrey Center
Instructors: Lee Munnich, Burke Murphy, Matt Schmit

Are you interested in learning how smart public policy can drive economic development – and how cohesive theory can inform this policy? PA 5590: Economic Competitiveness:  Firms, Clusters and Economic Development presents a broad array of perspectives on economic development through the industry cluster’ framework of Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter.

Our course inspires a better understanding of local, regional, state and national economic development through a balance of interesting case studies and ground-breaking theory.  Regular in-class discussions with leading economic development voices bring these lessons home to related work in the MSP metropolitan region and statewide.  You’ll gain insight into how world leaders think about economic development – and you’ll interact directly with policymakers and key officials in Minnesota, including perspectives from industry, Greater MSP Economic Development Partnership, and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The course also involves a team project focused on a region and an industry cluster.  Students taking this course have received recognition for their past projects: 
  •  In 2010 a team won a $500 Humphrey team paper award for their study “Minneapolis–St. Paul Metropolitan Region Distribution Services Cluster.”
  •  In 2011 a Humphrey School team received honorable mention by the Harvard Business School Microeconomics of Competitiveness (MOC) network for their paper “Automation on the Prairie” about the production technology industry cluster in West Central Minnesota.
  • In 2014 a Humphrey School team won best paper award by the Harvard Business School  MOC network among those nominated by faculty of the 100 universities around the world that teach the course for their paper  “Minneapolis/St. Paul Water Technologies: An emerging cluster in the Twin Cities.”
This team project may also qualify as a capstone professional paper project with prior approval of the instructor.  Please contact Lee Munnich if you would like to have your project qualify as a capstone project.  

A draft course syllabus will be available shortly.  Please let us know if you would like a syllabus or more information. 

For questions or to request a syllabus, contact Lee Munnich at or 612-202-9511.

We hope you’ll join PA 5590 in Spring 2017! 

Lee Munnich, L. Burke Murphy, Matt Schmit
Co-instructors, PA 5590


"I signed up for this course because of the community economic development initiative that is going on in my own community. ...The idea of how economic clusters develop and how communities can be intentional about supporting development of the cluster – either in policy supports or through de-regulation –is very applicable and helpful."  MPA student

"I was completely fascinated with this course and think it really tied a number of things together that we learned in our master’s course, but also expanded on the content by providing an entirely new perspective."  MBA student.

"This class has really instilled in me the importance of taking the time to slowly analyze an economy and cluster's strengths and weaknesses, to really map it to make sure that we're identifying correctly what is at play here and what is creating the strength and how we can work in mutually beneficial ways."  MURP student

"As an admirer of education that goes beyond the theoretical to applications in the real world, I was pleasantly surprised by the use of case studies, current events and practitioner visits."  MPP student

"I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this course, and I appreciated the way in which the academic theory was blended  with case studies, independent and group research, and actual examples from the community."  MPA student

"I signed up for this Masters, in simple words, because I want to help make the world a better place; I want to learn how to replicate best practices from developed economies and help make developing countries reach a higher level. This course has given me a concrete tool to do that, a new way of thinking and examples and hope that it can be done."   MPA student

"As a public policy student at the Humphrey School, I often feel that I do not reflect enough on the nexus between the public and private sectors. This course offered the opportunity to do so, and I am grateful for that."  MPP student

"This may have been my favorite class of the semester from a learning standpoint. If I could do a lot of my Humphrey career over I would focus more on economic development and what government should or should not do when it comes to supporting business."  MPP student
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