Placing entrepreneurship and firming small town economies: manufacturing firms, adaptive embeddedness, survival and linked enterprise structures

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SMEs make a major contribution to the economy of cities and places. The relationship between firms and place is increasingly explained through the application of city-based externality models. Such explanations have limited validity in a number of contexts. One of these is in the economies of small and medium-sized towns and communities (SMST). Whilst convention has sought to apply core-periphery explanations to the functioning of firms within SMSTs, the economies of SMSTs and entrepreneurial processes of SME embedding, adaptation and survival in such places are more complex. This paper explores these entrepreneurial processes in the context of manufacturing firms in five SMSTs in the West Midlands, UK. The paper uses interview data to understand the relationships between SMEs and place through the development of successive and evolving linked enterprise structures. Through these linked enterprise structures, SMEs engage in a process of adaptive embeddedness, resulting in new resource configurations through fluid iterations of structural, emotional, and circumstantial embeddedness. This paper is the first to identify and explore these different forms of embeddedness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)806-825
JournalEntrepreneurship & Regional Development
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2019
EventAssociation of American Geographers - US, New Orleans , United States
Duration: 10 Apr 201813 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was gratefully supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant number 1650742) We are grateful to Heike Mayer and Yas Motoyama for handling the editorial review of this article and for their excellent guidance on the two rounds of revisions. The constructive comments from the two anonymous reviewers on different drafts of this article were most welcome as they challenged us to refine and develop our argument. Useful feedback on earlier versions of this article were received at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, New Orleans (10 April, 2018), a seminar organised by the Institute of Global Innovation (IGI), University of Birmingham (23 May 2018) and a City-REDI seminar. Any errors or shortcomings are our own.


  • Small Towns
  • Southern Staffordshire
  • adaptation strategies
  • entrepreneurship and embeddedness
  • linked enterprise structures
  • manufacturing firms
  • path dependency
  • sunk costs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics


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