Image management in old-industrial regions : policy learning, governance and leadership in North East England and the Ruhr
This thesis examines how place images are being constructed and exploited in inward investment promotion on the regional scale. The study focuses on old-industrial areas as they suffer from a double disadvantage: they are in desperate need to attract inward investment to replace jobs lost through de-industrialisation, but at the same time are subject to negative stereotyping and are therefore often perceived as places where nobody would want to live or base their business. However, competition for inward investment is stiff, and a review of studies on the investment decision-making process reveals that perceptions of potential investment locations can have a significant impact on the decision. Using the examples of North East England and the Ruhr, theories of governance, social and policy learning as well as leadership are used to shed light on processes of image building. The key question is whether and how economic development stakeholders co-ordinate their efforts to achieve a targeted and coherent set of messages. The Ruhr has a history of 20 years of successful image management, mainly based on well-planned, sustained and well-resourced advertising campaigns, whereas image improvement efforts in the North East have largely been intermittent and piecemeal. The explanation of these differences centres on the rescaling of governance and the regional institutional landscape. The empirical findings suggest that elements of an emerging regional government in the North East find themselves in a 'pre-devolution vacuum' where a high degree of decentralisation of economic governance has not been matched by the creation of strong regional institutions. The image building efforts therefore largely have to rely on unstable policy networks which do not provide a suitable forum for stakeholder consultation. In the Ruhr, in contrast, the success in turning around negative perceptions is largely based on institutional continuity and well-developed administrative routines. The thesis concludes with recommendations for a re-design of institutional structures in both regions to enable a more robust and effective image management process.