Americans often complain that the nation no longer produces any products or goods, but the United States is the leading manufacturing nation in the world. The American Association of Manufacturers reports that about $1.6 trillion is generated annually by products made in the USA. According to the association, more than 12 million workers are employed in manufacturing plants throughout the country.
The Rust Belt
The area surrounding the Great Lakes, commonly known as the Rust Belt, has been the heart of manufacturing in the United States for more than a century. The belt includes parts of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia and all of Ohio. Natural resources such as coal and iron ore and rivers and rail routes helped build the Rust Belt. The area struggled with global competition, population shifts and environmental reform during the latter part of the 20th century, but more than 1.5 million workers still manufacture billions of dollars worth of products there. The Rust Belt produces cars, trucks and automotive parts, fabricated metals, primary metals and machinery. Food products, wood, chemicals and paper are also major industries. Like other parts of the country, communities in the Rust Belt are looking at biotechnology and electronics as potential areas of growth.
California, particularly the area surrounding Los Angeles, leads the West in manufacturing output, with just over $181 billion in goods logged for 2008. Electronics, computers, chemicals and petroleum products are the region’s top industries. Southern California’s climate and culture attract young and creative talent, and research and development contributes significantly to the region’s success.
Texas tops manufacturing regions and states in the South. In 2009, about 840,000 people were employed in manufacturing plants producing chemicals, computers, foods and petroleum products. Texas is also a major supplier of bricks and cement. The northern and southeastern parts of the state have the heaviest manufacturing activity, with oil refineries along the Gulf Coast. The Lyndon Johnson Space Center, about 30 miles south of Houston, has driven scientific research and manufacturing.
Many of the mills that made New England a manufacturing powerhouse during the 19th century have been converted to apartments, arts galleries and restaurants. Manufacturing plants in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire have moved to new, high-tech facilities where workers produce electronics, appliances and products for the aerospace industry. Chemicals, fabricated metals, machinery and medical equipment are also among the regions top products. In 2008, New England produced more than $80 billion worth of goods for the global market.
- National Association of Manufacturers: Facts About Manufacturing
- Coal Camp USA: The Rust Belt
- National Association of Manufacturers: Ohio Munufacturing Facts
- Association of Manufacturers: Michigan Manufacturing Facts
- City-Data: Los Angeles Economy
- Texas State Historical Association: Manufacturing Industries
Laura Scott has been reporting for Gatehouse Media New England, Essex County Newspapers and other regional publishers since 1997. She won several New England Press Association awards for her coverage of the fishing industry and coastal communities. Scott is a graduate of Vassar College and has a master's degree in American studies from Boston College. She also attended art school in Italy.