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ABSTRACT

This article reports on a study that explored economic development practitioners’ perceptions of competition and cooperation in economic development. The study was conducted against the backdrop of (1) an increasing advocacy by scholars and policymakers for cooperative policy practices in economic development instead of competition and (2) the restrictive institutional environment within which practitioners operate in Ontario. The analysis in the paper is based on in-depth interviews with eighteen economic development directors from a wide range of communities in the province of Ontario, Canada. Findings indicate that practitioners had a strong positive view of regional approaches in the present global economy. These findings contrast sharply with prior studies suggesting that practitioners are unwilling to cooperate in regional economic development. The study offers several possible reasons for a change in thinking. Practitioners also supported restricting financial incentives to businesses in Ontario, arguing that restrictions provide a more even environment for economic development activities in the province. Interestingly, practitioners’ support appears to contradict doubts about the global competitiveness of Ontario communities in such a restrictive environment. In light of practitioners’ positive cooperative attitudes, study findings suggest areas for policy interventions to enhance practical cooperative policy making.