Head office location - Agglomeration, clusters or flow nodes?

Type/nr A11/03
Skrevet av Stig-Erik Jakobsen and Knut Onsager
The basic aim of the paper is to establish an understanding of the concentration of head offices to metropolitan areas. Our discussion of the locational pattern of head offices in Norway is based on empirical data from a postal survey among the largest companies in Norway and intensive case studies from a selection of these companies. Surveydata are available from 123 head offices (both company head offices and national head offices of multinational companies located in Norway). In addition, case studies are conducted in 21 of these companies. The paper discusses different types of head office location, factors influencing the geographical distribution of head offices and the dynamics of head office location (process of change and stability). There is an extensive literature discussing the rationale for agglomeration of control functions of large companies. A system perspective, inspired by agglomeration theory and cluster theory, focus on the innovative capacity of cities, its institutional thickness and the diffusion of knowledge, and the destiny of “light” institutions (e.g. meeting places and cultural institutions). However, some of these studies tend to frame urban economies in terms of lines and boundaries and emphasise purely territorial sources of competitiveness. In this paper we introduce a new perspective developed by Amin and Thrift (2002). Cities are structured around flows of people, information and money, and are assemblages of more or less distanciated economic relations, that have different intensities at different locations. This implies that head offices must be understood as nodes in an internal, regional and external flow of knowledge and information. Our study brings new insight into the categorisation of head office location. By emphasising the heterogeneity of head office we have identified five ideal-types (historical location, political location, relocated head offices, hybrid head offices and converted head offices). By intensive study of selected cases we have also identified ownership change as the driving force for an evaluation or discussion of head office location within companies, eventually leading to a relocation of the head office or a change in head office status. In addition, we have illustrated that a multi-level perspective is necessary when analysing head office location. Even if proximity is important in the understanding of location, a study must also emphasise the multiplicity of connections that surpass cluster or city level and that are critical for the operation of the head office.
Språk Skrevet på engelsk