This dissertation is a comparative case study of regional cooperation in the field of economic development. In the 21st century global economy, proponents of regionalism have put forth fresh arguments for collective action. A regional approach to economic development activity presents a classic social dilemma: How can local officials collectively improve the economic prospects of a region, and remain autonomous to act in the best interest of the local community? This research examines the role of social capital in overcoming this social dilemma.
Three (3) comparable Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) form the empirical basis of this research. The Houston MSA, the Atlanta MSA and the Miami MSA present distinct variations of regionalized economic development activity. This dissertation seeks to explain this disparity in the dependent variable. The hypothesis is that accrued social capital is crucial to obtaining economic development cooperative agreements.
This qualitative research utilized secondary demographic and economic databases, survey instruments, interviews, field observations, and a review of legislative and administrative decisions to formulate a clear understanding of the factors influencing the current state of regional economic development cooperation within each region. The study concludes that the legislative and executive decisions of state government exert inordinate influence on the capacity of local officials to cooperate regionally for economic development purposes.