No regional development concept or theory has received greater attention among economists, regional planners, governments and development agencies than growth pole theory. The growth pole concept originated from British Economist, Sir William Petty (1623-1687), who was fascinated by the high growth in London during the 17th century and conjectured that strong urban economies are the backbone and motor of the wealth of nations.
However, it was the French Economist, Francois Perroux (1903-1987), who is credited with formalizing and elaborating on the concept. Since then, the growth pole concept has been subject to various definitions and interpretations, and its application has spread across the globe considerably. Monsted (1974) and Parr (1999) agree that the widespread use of the growth pole concept is reflected in the number of conferences and publications on the subject, as well as the apparent positive outcome of its application in developed countries in Western Europe, particularly in Great Britain, France and Italy.
Regional development based on growth pole strategy became popular in developing countries in the 1960s, mostly in Latin American Countries, with national governments filled with optimism about its benefits for economic growth and social progress (Angotti, 1998). Ironically by the 1970s, the interest in the growth pole concept in developing countries had dwindled, after its application failed to yield the anticipated outcome (Gilbert, 1974; Conroy, 1973; Moseley, 1973). This fact notwithstanding, there is still some belief in the growth pole concept today, as could be revealed in the literature and various programs aimed at expanding development via viable cities.
CENTRAL PLACE THEORY
Central place theory is a spatial theory in urban geography that attempts to explain the reasons behind the distribution patterns, size, and number of cities and towns around the world. It also attempts to provide a framework by which those areas can be studied both for historic reasons and for the locational patterns of areas today. The theory was first developed by the German geographer Walter Christaller in 1933 after he began to recognize the economic relationships between cities and their hinterlands (areas farther away). He mainly tested the theory in Southern Germany and came to the conclusion that people gather together in cities to share goods and ideas and that they exist for purely economic reasons.
Before testing his theory however, Christaller had to first define the central place. In keeping with his economic focus, he came to the conclusion that the central place exists primarily to provide goods and services to its surrounding population. The city is in essence, a distribution center. To focus on the economic aspects of his theory, Christaller had to create a set of assumptions. He decided for example that the countryside in the areas he was studying would be flat, so no barriers would exist to impede people's movement across it. In addition, two assumptions were made about human behavior: 1) Christaller stated that humans will always purchase goods from the closest place that offers the good, and 2) whenever demand for a certain good is high, it will be offered in close proximity to the population. When demand drops, so too does the availability of the good.
In addition, the threshold is an important concept in Christaller's study. This is the minimum number of people needed for a central place business or activity to remain active and prosperous. This then brings in the idea of low-order and high-order goods. Low-order goods are things that are replenished frequently such as food and other routine household items. Because these items are purchased regularly, small businesses in small towns can survive because people will buy frequently at the closer locations instead of going into the city.
High-order goods though are specialized items such as automobiles, furniture, fine jewelry, and household appliances that are bought less often. Because they require a large threshold and people do not purchase them regularly, many businesses selling these items cannot survive in areas where the population is small. Therefore, they often locate in large cities that can serve a large population in the surrounding hinterland.