The Three Sectors of Our Economy Explained 

Three Sectors of Our EconomyThe three sectors of our economy -- privatepublic and non-profit -- are inextricably intertwined.

Well-regarded organizations within the private (for-profit) sector - such as Apple, 3M, Target and Ford Motors - excel at delivering value to targeted groups of customers, and are primarily designed to satisfy customer needs while increasing the wealth of their investors.

In contrast, organizations in the public and non-profit sector are primarily designed to perform services for the good of society as a whole. They respond to critical and broad-based needs that the for-profit sector is unable to address in a commercially viable manner.

  • The public (government) sector pools our society's resources at the local, state and federal levels to provide necessary military, legal, police and fire protections. It provides a safety net to those that are elderly, disabled or unable to provide for themselves. It maintains transportation networks, and is largely responsible for safeguarding the workplace, food supply, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. 
  • The non-profit sector engages with both local and global communities to serve the interests of a broad variety of individuals and groups. Non-profits - such as the United Way, Caring Bridge, Guthrie Theatre and HealthPartners - deliver a wide range of services from medical care, preschool through university-level educations, museum exhibits, arts performances, workforce training, counseling, food and shelter, to housing and economic development.

None of these sectors can operate in a vacuum without the others. Businesses in the private sector rely on society and public infrastructures, as much as our public and nonprofit sectors rely on the success and support of businesses.