1.1. Industrial parks and their effectiveness
One of the prominent ways to achieve local and regional development is through development of industries in a country. Through industrial development, developing countries in East Asia have experienced economic growth and they have been able to compete in world markets. On the opposite, the least developed countries which suffer from rudimentary and non-dynamic industries have to produce a limited spectrum of simple products which result in trivial impacts on their economic growth (Lall, 1991). Establishing industrial parks can be effective on thriving industrial development of countries since they provide sufficient infrastructure and services; hence, artisans and investors are attracted to these industrial areas to set up their companies (Hu et al. 2009). To benefit from the economic advantages obtaining from industrial parks, many countries worldwide were attracted to creation of industrial districts, where their industries can thrive and experience development by using the provided services. Consequently, in recent years, there has been a surge in the number of industrial parks established around the world (Yang et al. 2018). An industrial park is an area established with the goal of creating wealth and jobs for a specific region with a sustainable perspective. The companies that reside in an industrial park present a wide range of services such as consultations, designing or engineering, trading, manufacturing, etc. Existence of efficient industrial parks which provide supporting services for investors can result in growth of industries; therefore, industrial development of a country will be more likely to be achieved. Establishment of industrial parks may have several advantages that lead to the following outcomes: (1) Establishment cost of infrastructural facilities is minimized, (2) Investors are persuaded to partake in production activities, (3) Value-generating and income-producing jobs will be obtained, (4) Different industries will be brought to under-developed regions, where the potentiality of industrial development is significant, (5) Industries existing in industrial parks will have interrelationships, etc. (Geng and Hengxin, 2009).
Despite the advantages mentioned for industrial parks, there are certain challenges encountering managers and policy makers. Establishing an industrial park needs hefty investment on many requirements such as land preparation, infrastructural facilities, construction, and supporting services. Moreover, the mere establishment of an industrial park will not always lead to economic benefits. Hence, a proper performance monitoring procedure should exist to ensure the effective utilization of industrial parks (Yang et al. 2016; Yang et al. 2018). One of the prominent policies which can be applied for maximizing the economic gain from industrial parks is to construct and develop “effective” or “demand-driven” parks. Demand-driven or effective parks are industrial districts in a country, where investment motivations for private sector are significantly higher than other industrial zones. This means that many of the private industry owners tend to set up their companies or industries in these areas. Industrial parks will not become effective without certain causes; therefore, there is a necessity to develop a valid framework in order to identify the influential factors on the effectiveness of industrial parks.
1.2. Industrial parks and sustainable development
In recent years, the sustainability aspect of industrial parks has been of high concern for the governments, responsible organizations, investors, and researchers; since the industrial parks blessed with green production will have competitive benefits and superiority over the parks operating based on non-green productions. Furthermore, recent years have witnessed the focus of many governments and private industry owners on sustainable development of industries or businesses (Tudor et al., 2007; Bellantuono et al., 2017). Through sustainable industrialization, socio-economic benefits will be obtained without degrading the quality of surrounding environment (Patnaik and Poyyamoli, 2015). To satisfy the requirements for achieving sustainable industrial development, many countries (including Iran) stepped on the course of establishing Eco-Industrial Parks (EIPs) that incorporate three aspects of sustainability, namely the society, environment, and economy (Veiga and Magrini, 2009; Jung et al. 2013). An eco-industrial park embraces a set of manufacturing and service companies that collaboratively work together to relieve environmental and resource concerns so that better social, economic, and environmental performance is achieved (Cote and Cohen-Rosenthal, 1998; Veiga and Magrini, 2009). The concept of EIPs has been utilized to: (1) tackle the negative environmental impacts originating from industrial development, and (2) promote sustainable development in industrial areas. Recent years have witnessed the spread of EIP concept in both developing and industrialized countries as a tool to acquire sustainable development. Precipitous procedure of industrial development resulted in overconsumption of resources in addition to environmental issues. Therefore, the concept of EIP has been employed to relieve environmental harm and concurrently to enhance social and economic benefits. The industrial parks of Iran are no exceptions and the rivalries among the industry owners led these parks to sustainable development. However, based on the given descriptions in the previous sub-section regarding the effectiveness of parks, a crucial question faces the industrial parks of Iran on the path of sustainable development which is “How much the effectiveness of the industrial parks of Iran is affected by the sustainability-related factors?”. Therefore, this study targets to present a methodology by which the influential factors on the effectiveness of industrial parks are identified. The proposed model of this study embraces the sustainability-related factors and other influential factors altogether to have a comprehensive perspective on the effectiveness of parks.
1.3. Inspiring motivations
Establishment of industrial parks in Iran has a main purpose which is providing required services and supports for non-governmental organizations and entities to set up their industries and pursue their business plans. When these non-governmental entities are established, considerable amounts of investments might be directed to the industrial parks housing the aforementioned entities. More effective industrial parks will receive more attention from artisans; therefore, more organizations will be persuaded to set up and carry on their businesses in these parks. Hence, it is essential to investigate and detect the influential factors that affect the effectiveness and demand-driven level of industrial parks. By identifying these factors, it will become possible to: (1) establish highly effective industrial parks, and (2) lead the less effective industrial parks to better performance and effectiveness. The aforementioned reasons inspired the researchers of this study to focus on detecting the influential factors. Since the sustainability of the parks has been a concern for the country, the influential factors have been detected with regard to sustainability considerations. Having focused on the demand-driven level of parks, this study can deliver helpful analyses and consultations for the responsible provincial organizations so that they can offer sufficient support and services for industrial parks; consequently, industrial development, employment rate, appropriate allocation of wealth, etc. will be achieved. In a nutshell, the general motivation of this research is to provide a framework based on which the factors and variables influencing the effectiveness of industrial parks will be identified with respect to sustainability perspective. Furthermore, the authors yearn to provide an indigenous model by which it will be possible to analyze the impact of the identified factors on the effectiveness of Iran’s industrial parks.
1.4. Targets of this study
The current research tries to detect the important factors that influence the effectiveness or demand-driven level of industrial parks. More effective parks are subject to more attention and better investments from the artisans who are willing to employ the services offered by these parks to develop and promote their industries. Hence, finding the key factors leading to better effectiveness is of high importance. In detecting the influential factors, this study aims to incorporate the sustainability considerations as well. These factors have also been embraced in this research since the industries of developing countries are moving towards sustainable development. Detecting the aforementioned influential factors enables the responsible officials to devise operational plans for industrial parks leading to better effectiveness. Along with the sustainability perspective, several other viewpoints consisting of infrastructural availability, supporting services, training courses, technical consultations, etc. have been considered as the key elements influencing the effectiveness. As another target of this study, the importance degree of each identified factor has been determined since the factors have different importance. Having determined the factors with more importance, the responsible organizations will be able to focus on these elements and try to eliminate shortcomings. With the influential factors at hand, this study aims to propose an indigenous model for Iran by which the impacts of the identified factors on the effectiveness of parks can be estimated. Then, this research targets to apply the proposed model to the provinces of Iran in order to determine their performance in terms of the effectiveness of their industrial parks.
1.5. Structure of the paper
The current study has been arranged as follows: Related studies have been reviewed in Section 2. Section 3 explicates the proposed methodology consisting of the developed qualitative and quantitative approaches. Section 3 also embraces the indigenous model proposed by this research for determining the effect of the identified factors on the demand-driven level of the industrial parks working in Iran. Section 4 has been dedicated to the analyses on the reliability of the research instrument and also the validity of the proposed model of this study. In Section 4, the provinces of Iran that accommodate numerous number of parks have been assessed in terms of their effectiveness. Ultimately, Section 5 summarizes the steps which have been taken to complete this research and delivers some concluding points. Moreover, Section 5 proposes some research guidance for future works.