A couple of events have provoked my interest in this subject: a colleague who consults on place marketing (Ed Burghard http://tinyurl.com/llrha9) and an article in the SCIP publication by a Dutch colleague, Barend van de Kraats@http://tinyurl.com/nd6kpz.
It's interesting to me that so many jurisdictions managing tax payer funds (your money) don't do more that is strategic in terms of identifying & then pursuing clusters of businesses/industries that deserve to thrive in their communities. I am neither an economist nor a politician. Just thinking out loud.
Now, supposing you are directly or indirectly leading the economic development policies and programs for a city, region or country. Does "competititive intelligence" play a role in your world. Specifically, do you have the discipline to deeply research how other cities, regions and countries are competing for the same jobs you want to bring and to retain in your jurisdiction. And then, are you analyzing this for sources of advantage. Michael Porter wrote about this in Competitive Advantages of Nations and developed his "diamond" model to address how to think about this - see http://tinyurl.com/ltvrg.
I would propose coming at this in some obvious ways and I realize we have to walk before we can run:
1) Study growing industries (w/i GDP per NAICS codes, movement of capital, industry studies from a balanced set of sources and SME's, etc.). This is pretty basic CI.
2) Find the ones or subsets that are most likely to thrive in your jurisdiction based on developing a deep insight into what it takes to be successful in those industries and ranking your jurisdiction's economic drivers, policies, capabilities, etc against those. Again this is a common CI skill set.
3) Work through the public policy apparatus to align government efforts against those
4) Populate (or connect) economic development offices to include people with deep insight into those industries so that deep and rapid engagement is more likely.
5) Strategically target companies in these industries most likely to grow and succeed. This part merely involves well-established CI practices from the private sector.
6) Win more often. (and if you are already doing this, I salute you)
In contrast, we should less often apply the same bus development efforts and direct investment (tax abatements, etc.) against jobs that will last 5 years vs. the ones that will thrive for decades. I realize that's tough to do in a political reality where political leaders are sometimes motivated to achieve rapid results to get re-elected vs. do the right thing for the long term...kind of like the private sector incentivizing on quarterly business results.