Date of Graduation
This dissertation investigates the Kanawha Valley petro-chemical industry. By identifying an intersection between the local dependence and the more applied innovation-based economic development literatures, this research operationalizes theories of local dependence. Conceptually, it is observed that the local dependence of Kanawha Valley residents, politics, and industry are the result of local decision making. Based on these decisions and experiences, ad hoc and planned social structures are constructed that reproduce the conditions of everyday life. Drawing on the case study, the dissertation expands the definition of local social structures to include innovation infrastructures. These specialized structures maintain, promote, and expand high technology industries and are defined by four elements: (1) a critical mass of shared core technologies within and between firms, universities, and/or other institutions; (2) access to specialized labor; (3) producer service provision; and (4) an entrepreneurial business climate. This dissertation demonstrates that these factors contribute to the historical and contemporary local dependence of Kanawha Valley residents. Using a mixed methodological approach, six research questions are posed. Drawing on a survey of manufacturers and secondary data sources, the dissertation investigates the changing nature of local dependence over time, the historical and contemporary configuration of the local innovation infrastructure, and observed socio-spatial linkages between actors. The author concludes that localities inherently experience integrated dependence. This dissertation makes several contributions to economic geography and the wider social sciences. Conceptually, it expands the literatures on territorial industrialization and local dependence by engaging an applied economic development literature. Empirically, it operationalizes the concepts of local dependence. Additionally, the research identifies and addresses existing sectoral and areal gaps in economic geography by (1) expanding a limited library of geographic research on the petrochemical industry to include a place-based analysis of innovation infrastructures, and (2) investigating an under studied and historically significant Appalachian petro-chemical complex. The dissertation makes three findings. First, the nature of local dependence changes over time. Observed change suggests contemporary economic development is the result of social, not natural, resources. Second, the Kanawha Valley has developed a sophisticated, but somewhat incomplete innovation infrastructure. Third, deficiencies in the local innovation infrastructure promote integrated dependence.
Gatrell, Jay Dean, "Localized innovation: A geography of the petro-chemical industry in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia." (1999). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 8900.