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Perceptions of firms within a cluster regarding the cluster's function and success: Amish furniture manufacturing in Ohio

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Bumgardner, Matthew S.; Graham, Gary W.; Goebel, P. Charles; Romig, Robert L.

Year Published

2011

Publication

In: Fei, Songlin; Lhotka, John M.; Stringer, Jeffrey W.; Gottschalk, Kurt W.; Miller, Gary W., eds. Proceedings, 17th central hardwood forest conference; 2010 April 5-7; Lexington, KY; Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-78. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 597-606.

Abstract

The Amish-based furniture manufacturing cluster in and around Holmes County, OH, is home to some 400 shops and has become an important regional driver of demand for hardwood products. The cluster has expanded even as the broader domestic furniture industry has declined. Clustering dynamics are seen as important to the success, but little information has been available to assess the perceptions of firms operating within the cluster. The present study asked manufacturers to rate the importance of several factors to making the Holmes County region a good place to be in business. Common actions taken by these firms, and the information sources most commonly used, also were evaluated. A reputation for high-quality products was rated as critical to the cluster's success, followed by access to suppliers and manufacturing services. It was somewhat common to outsource components from other local shops, to use other vendors for computer numeric control work, and to refer potential customers to other local shops when better equipped for an order. Firms within the cluster were close to their customers, as conversations with customers was rated the most common source of information to learn about furniture industry trends. Word of mouth from other local shops also was somewhat important. These results demonstrated the importance of repeated interaction among the numerous shops, and also showed the importance individual firms placed on maintaining the reputation for high-quality products coming from the cluster. The unique mix of cooperation and competition has resulted in a model of competitiveness in wood furniture manufacturing.

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Citation

Bumgardner, Matthew S.; Graham, Gary W.; Goebel, P. Charles; Romig, Robert L. 2011. Perceptions of firms within a cluster regarding the cluster's function and success: Amish furniture manufacturing in Ohio. In: Fei, Songlin; Lhotka, John M.; Stringer, Jeffrey W.; Gottschalk, Kurt W.; Miller, Gary W., eds. Proceedings, 17th central hardwood forest conference; 2010 April 5-7; Lexington, KY; Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-78. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 597-606.

Last updated on: June 24, 2011