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Old 07-14-2016, 09:48 PM
 
Location: Cbus
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The term "Rust belt" of course usually refers to Midwestern and sometimes Northeastern cities that suffered greatly from de-industrialization. I'm curious about towns in the southeastern U.S. that declined in part from the U.S. transitioning away from a manufacturing economy.

Birmingham has a past built on iron and steel production.

I read that North Memphis once had a lot of industrial plants including Firestone and International Harvester.

Are there any of cities or districts in cities that suffered a similar fate to their northern counterparts?
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Old 07-15-2016, 05:47 AM
 
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Most Southern Inner cities faced similar urban declines in the 1960s-80s. However places like Jacksonville masked it with annexation of suburbs. The inner cores of Jacksonville, Houston, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta have all declined in population.
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Old 07-15-2016, 06:28 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Buckeye614 View Post
The term "Rust belt" of course usually refers to Midwestern and sometimes Northeastern cities that suffered greatly from de-industrialization. I'm curious about towns in the southeastern U.S. that declined in part from the U.S. transitioning away from a manufacturing economy.

Birmingham has a past built on iron and steel production.

I read that North Memphis once had a lot of industrial plants including Firestone and International Harvester.

Are there any of cities or districts in cities that suffered a similar fate to their northern counterparts?
Declined isn't the right word for Birmingham. I think transformed is a better term.

Your initial premise is correct. Being essentially a company town, Birmingham indeed was indeed slammed by US Steel in the late 70s. The city had always been a boom-and-bust town based on the fortunes of the steel industry. Just to give you an idea how US Steel actually held growth hostage here, USS actually started putting a tariff on any iron and steel products made in Birmingham that were shipped outside the state, all because the Birmingham mills became more efficient and productive than the plants up north. How crazy and short sighted is that?

So in the early 80s, Birmingham and Flint, Michigan, were neck and neck for the country's worst unemployment rate.

But in the late 70s, the city decided to collectively change the script and worked hard to transform the economy. Banking, finance, media, research, healthcare, and a more diverse manufacturing base were developed. It helped that Mercedes, Honda, and a swarm of their suppliers came to town as a result. So by the middle of the last decade, Birmingham was tied with Orlando for the country's lowest unemployment rate. Around 2005, Birmingham was the third largest banking center in the country behind New York and Charlotte, being the home for several super regional banks. The city then took it in the shorts once again with the mortgage meltdown in 2008 and subsequent mergers and acquisitions, but the dislocation was not nearly so severe.

And the change continues. The city has, of late, really boosted its infrastructure to act as a distribution center. There is a nascent tech industry (Emphasis on the word nascent. It ain't Silicon Valley, but it's a start), and the downtown area is utterly different than just five years ago, spurred on by about a billion in new construction projects. So while the metro area has grown steadily over the past thirty years, it's now better positioned for stronger growth in the years to come. Interestingly enough, US Steel has decided to close its blast furnace here permanently last year. In 1979, that kind of decision almost killed the city. Today, it barely causes a ripple.

An odd coincidence. I had to spend several days in Flint last summer on business. Given that Birmingham and Flint were twin poster children for manufacturing decline in the late 70s and early 80s, it was quite a comparison and contrast. Not harshing on Flint per se, but that town needs a fix really quickly. Meanwhile Birmingham doesn't even look like the same city that it was even fifteen years ago.

Mind you, none of this is meant to be relentless boosterism. Birmingham still has a lot to tackle. But beginning in the late 70s, we worked towards becoming a problem-solving city. Today, if you compare the place to Nashville or Charlotte, then Birmingham will still suffer. But, then again, we started much further back in the pack.

So, yeah, there was a lot of pain involved in changing the city's economy. But it ain't Youngstown. And the net result over the past thirty years has definitely not been a decline.

Last edited by cpg35223; 07-15-2016 at 07:14 AM..
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Old 07-15-2016, 07:26 AM
 
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Well if we're going with the technical definition of the South as opposed to the cultural definition, then Baltimore would be exhibit A. Otherwise, it would be Birmingham.
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Old 07-15-2016, 07:42 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Mutiny77 View Post
Well if we're going with the technical definition of the South as opposed to the cultural definition, then Baltimore would be exhibit A. Otherwise, it would be Birmingham.
Sorry, but I just don't agree with your assessment. The term Rust Belt implies overall economic decline and population decline. By any metric you care to name, Birmingham is economically far better off than it was in the early 80s, something that the typical Rust Belt examples such as Youngstown, Detroit, Flint, or Buffalo can't say. And the metro population has grown by roughly a third since the area hit its nadir in the early 1980s.
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Old 07-15-2016, 07:49 AM
 
29,943 posts, read 27,375,616 times
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Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
Sorry, but I just don't agree with your assessment. The term Rust Belt implies overall economic decline and population decline. By any metric you care to name, Birmingham is economically far better off than it was in the early 80s, something that the typical Rust Belt examples such as Youngstown, Detroit, Flint, or Buffalo can't say. And the metro population has grown by roughly a third since the area hit its nadir in the early 1980s.
There are Rust Belt cities that are still struggling, like those you named, and there are recovered Rust Belt cities, like Pittsburgh and Chicago. The term "Rust Belt" primarily refers to a history of heavy industry, and Birmingham had that but it also successfully transitioned to a more service-oriented economy early on, led by UAB and the banks.
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Old 07-15-2016, 07:49 AM
 
Location: Cbus
1,721 posts, read 1,402,528 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
Declined isn't the right word for Birmingham. I think transformed is a better term.

Your initial premise is correct. Being essentially a company town, Birmingham indeed was indeed slammed by US Steel in the late 70s. The city had always been a boom-and-bust town based on the fortunes of the steel industry. Just to give you an idea how US Steel actually held growth hostage here, USS actually started putting a tariff on any iron and steel products made in Birmingham that were shipped outside the state, all because the Birmingham mills became more efficient and productive than the plants up north. How crazy and short sighted is that?

So in the early 80s, Birmingham and Flint, Michigan, were neck and neck for the country's worst unemployment rate.

But in the late 70s, the city decided to collectively change the script and worked hard to transform the economy. Banking, finance, media, research, healthcare, and a more diverse manufacturing base were developed. It helped that Mercedes, Honda, and a swarm of their suppliers came to town as a result. So by the middle of the last decade, Birmingham was tied with Orlando for the country's lowest unemployment rate. Around 2005, Birmingham was the third largest banking center in the country behind New York and Charlotte, being the home for several super regional banks. The city then took it in the shorts once again with the mortgage meltdown in 2008 and subsequent mergers and acquisitions, but the dislocation was not nearly so severe.

And the change continues. The city has, of late, really boosted its infrastructure to act as a distribution center. There is a nascent tech industry (Emphasis on the word nascent. It ain't Silicon Valley, but it's a start), and the downtown area is utterly different than just five years ago, spurred on by about a billion in new construction projects. So while the metro area has grown steadily over the past thirty years, it's now better positioned for stronger growth in the years to come. Interestingly enough, US Steel has decided to close its blast furnace here permanently last year. In 1979, that kind of decision almost killed the city. Today, it barely causes a ripple.

An odd coincidence. I had to spend several days in Flint last summer on business. Given that Birmingham and Flint were twin poster children for manufacturing decline in the late 70s and early 80s, it was quite a comparison and contrast. Not harshing on Flint per se, but that town needs a fix really quickly. Meanwhile Birmingham doesn't even look like the same city that it was even fifteen years ago.

Mind you, none of this is meant to be relentless boosterism. Birmingham still has a lot to tackle. But beginning in the late 70s, we worked towards becoming a problem-solving city. Today, if you compare the place to Nashville or Charlotte, then Birmingham will still suffer. But, then again, we started much further back in the pack.

So, yeah, there was a lot of pain involved in changing the city's economy. But it ain't Youngstown. And the net result over the past thirty years has definitely not been a decline.
Super Interesting post especially the part about domestic tariffs, thank you for all of that information. I wasn't trying to insinuate that Birmingham or other southern cities declined to the same extent as Detroit or Youngstown but just think the industrial past/present of the south is largely ignored and it would be interesting to examine the effects of de-industrialization in that region.
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Old 07-15-2016, 07:53 AM
 
28,905 posts, read 46,733,389 times
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Originally Posted by Mutiny77 View Post
There are Rust Belt cities that are still struggling, like those you named, and there are recovered Rust Belt cities, like Pittsburgh and Chicago. The term "Rust Belt" primarily refers to a history of heavy industry, and Birmingham had that but it also successfully transitioned to a more service-oriented economy early on, led by UAB and the banks.
Ah. I see your point. I think the problem lies with the emotional freight that the term Rust Belt carries. To me, it's more a statement of current economic status rather than a state of transition from manufacturing to something else.
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Old 07-15-2016, 07:56 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Buckeye614 View Post
Super Interesting post especially the part about domestic tariffs, thank you for all of that information. I wasn't trying to insinuate that Birmingham or other southern cities declined to the same extent as Detroit or Youngstown but just think the industrial past/present of the south is largely ignored and it would be interesting to examine the effects of de-industrialization in that region.
I understand. I just think it's an interesting story to tell. Birmingham in the 1970s and early 80s was just a craphole, the result of short sighted thinking, the reliance on one industry and our ugly racial history. But once the hard foundational changes began taking place, things started improving. Marginally at first, but at a faster pace over time.
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Old 07-15-2016, 07:56 AM
 
56,613 posts, read 80,910,543 times
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Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
Sorry, but I just don't agree with your assessment. The term Rust Belt implies overall economic decline and population decline. By any metric you care to name, Birmingham is economically far better off than it was in the early 80s, something that the typical Rust Belt examples such as Youngstown, Detroit, Flint, or Buffalo can't say. And the metro population has grown by roughly a third since the area hit its nadir in the early 1980s.
I think you can be Rust Belt, but have growth, as it is more about the deindustrialization. Rochester is an area that could fit in terms of a Rust Belt area that has never had a metro population decline and some of these areas have held steady in terms of metro population over the years.

Anyway, there are probably other Southern examples, but are likely smaller/mid sized metros.

Last edited by ckhthankgod; 07-15-2016 at 08:36 AM..
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