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Struggles and strategies of rural regions in the age of the ‘urban triumph’
- Meijers, Evert, van der Wouw, Dick
- Journal of rural studies 2019 v.66 pp. 21-29
- business enterprises, cities, metropolitan areas, rural areas, towns, Netherlands
- A bourgeoning literature is stressing the crucial importance of agglomeration economies provided by large cities for personal, business and territorial development. One of the main reasons for the economic, demographic and social struggles of rural regions is exactly the lack of such agglomeration benefits. This paper explores the question of which broad strategies can make rural economies more competitive in the age of the ‘urban triumph’ by organising the presence of a higher level of agglomeration benefits in rural regions. Theoretically, three strategies are discerned: a) ‘borrowing size’ in infrastructural, transport and organisational networks to ‘tap into’ some of the benefits of surrounding or other metropolitan areas; b) urban concentration to develop a single, more attractive urban center in the rural region; and c) the formation of a strongly integrated network of complementary towns and cities in the rural region. The implementation of these strategies is often complicated, as we document for the rural province of Zeeland in the Netherlands. From an overarching perspective, it has been particularly internal fragmentation that has led to further marginalisation, peripheralisation and the missing of many opportunities to ‘borrow size’. The strategies defined here show that rural regions are not unfortunate victims of the tendencies leading to the ‘urban triumph’, but have the potential to reap the benefits of agglomeration themselves.