AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Fundamental changes in the global economy have altered regional fortunes and produced new socio-economic patterns at all geographic scales. Early recognition of these changes centered on decline of the American Manufacturing Belt and central cities, coupled with rise of the Sunbelt and other formerly-peripheral locations. More recent focus has been on distinct spatial settings that appear ascendant in the new industrial order: global cities, territorial production complexes, and locales distinguished by high-technology enterprise, producer services, and other lead industries. Analysts often juxtapose these shifts with economic eras, the former signaling decline of Fordism and the latter, movement to a post-Fordist transition.
This study moves inquiry forward by addressing recent economic change in an old industrial region that was part of the American Manufacturing Belt. Research on such regions is fragmented sectorally and historically, with little attention directed to broad patterns of change in the post-1980 period; also, conceptual perspectives offer different portrayals of the ongoing process. Here, spatial patterns of employment, and changes therein, are empirically examined in terms of sectors, locales, and a geographic scale pertinent to conceptual disparities but neglected in recent debates.
Focus is on the Ohio River Valley (ORV), the economic significance of which has been recognized from the frontier period through the postwar era. Anchored at one end by Pittsburgh-Wheeling-Youngstown, encompassing Cincinnati-Louisville, and a multitude of smaller cities, towns, and rural areas as far west as the Mississippi, this region epitomizes the Midwest's industrial heartland, its agricultural-energy reserve, the "... true path to capitalist growth ..." (Page and Walker 1991:281). Although historical development of the Ohio River Valley has received attention (Reid 1991), there is no research on its contemporary period other than case studies of major metropolitan areas and selected industries. By extending analysis to the region as a whole, and the 1980-90 phase of Fordist restructuring, industrial sectors and locales that are often overlooked can be probed, and current-day variations within old industrial regions, a dimension that has been inadequately delineated (Hudson 1989), can be documented. More broadly, this study provides an empirical example and meso-scale understanding of contemporary transformation in regions shaped by, and identified with, the rise of Fordism.
The discourse is presented in five steps. Initial discussion concerns portrayal of post-1980s change in old industrial regions and related issues. Also considered is the importance of regional-level analyses for understanding recent transformations in space-economies. Second, the Ohio River Valley study area is described. Third, building on observations that variations within old industrial regions have been inadequately delineated, sub-regions are identified based on county population and economic activity characteristics. Next is a discussion of employment change in major economic sectors by sub-region for 1980-90. The paper concludes with general observations concerning growth/decline among Ohio River Valley sub-regions, the relevance of findings for conceptual frameworks on old industrial regions, and issues needing greater attention in future research.
Restructuring the Cradles of Fordism: Recent Perspectives
Old manufacturing regions were a springboard for industrial capitalism in nineteenth century North America and Europe. Distinguishing these regions were early ties to international markets and "... industries such as coal mining, chemicals, iron and steel, and related metal processing ..." (Hudson 1989:6). Subsequent development was associated with a battery of characteristics that epitomize Fordism; e.g., large firms, mass-production, durable manufacturing, industrial cities, and a blue-collar, male labor force. This prototypical view continues to frame research on regions such as the American Manufacturing Belt, which are generally seen as homogeneous in economic and urban structure (Hudson 1989; Page and Walker 1991).
Contemporary analyses of old industrial regions often center on the 1970s, during which dramatic de-industrialization first became apparent to the academic and public eye (Bluestone and Harrison 1982). Focusing instead on the seldom-examined 1980-90 period facilitates addressing questions concerning subsequent evolution: to what extent, and in what ways, does de-industrialization continue; has regeneration occurred, particularly via new industries or in new places? Such questions are central to empirically understanding regional change, but also to theoretical debates on the Fordist transition and movement towards a new organization of production (Amin 1994; Yeung 1994).
In studies of old industrial regions, the predominant approach emphasizes continued de-industrialization and regional decline (Amin 1994). Empirical studies center on broad descriptions of the American Manufacturing Belt, often contrasted with Sunbelt expansion (Markusen 1985; Sawers and Tabb 1984), or on case studies of specific industries and cities (Clark 1989; Cooke 1989; Nash 1989; Perrucci et al. 1988). Analyses emphasize trends outlined in the well-known and widely documented restructuring thesis. Increased global competition leads to decline of durable and other manufacturing; organization and production innovations allow large corporations to de-integrate specific operations vertically; industries, firms, and jobs shift from core to peripheral locales at all scales - from First to Third world countries, Rustbelt to Sunbelt, and metropolitan to non-metropolitan areas (Clark 1985; Drucker 1993). High wage, male-dominated, Fordist-type employment decreases, unemployment rises, the bargaining power of skilled workers is eroded, lower wage, more feminized service employment expands. Under the de-industrialization perspective, then, old industrial regions stagnate or contract, relative to other regions and the past.
A different view is provided by post-Fordist transition approaches to 1980s restructuring. These emphasize the ascendant economy wherein old industrial regions are partially re-energized through new industrial spaces and leading industries or firms (Storper and Walker 1989). Flexible specialization, one hallmark of the ascendant economy, occurs in industries that include machine tools, electronics, and increasingly, large-scale manufacturing such as automobiles and steel. Small manufacturing firms, and large firm use of flexible manufacturing, are linked to emergence of new production complexes and local employment growth; exemplary are Boston's Route 128, auto-part satellites of Japanese plants in rural Mid-America, and mini-steel mills (Piore and Sabel 1984; Sayer and Walker 1992). Metropolitan areas are another locale of employment regeneration. Financial and producer services that facilitate the ascendant economy expand selectively in Chicago, New York, and Minneapolis (Storper and Walker 1989), but growth also is evident in Pittsburgh and other urban areas that experienced profound Fordist decline. Such regeneration is linked to a stage in economic development wherein organization and operating principles break sharply with the past, signifying a new, post-Fordist economy.(1)
De-industrialization and post-Fordist transition frameworks address the types of industries, firms, and employment considered most dynamic in driving change during the 1980s. As such, they provide two poles for understanding shifts in the Ohio River Valley. One signals employment declines in durable manufacturing and other formerly dominant industries; the second, economic regeneration based on employment in new industries and/or traditional manufacturing arising in new locales. Taking a middle ground that accepts both theses, change should be sectorally and spatially uneven, with aggregate employment decline in traditional industries but growth in selected economic sectors and locales.
While this synthesis might seem obvious, it is not addressed by previous research, which works against a broad understanding of 1980s change and its spatial manifestations (Yeung 1994). More specifically, earlier work has three traits (Amin and Robins 1990; Hudson 1989). First, attention usually is directed to industries central to prototypical Fordism and its transition; for example, durable manufacturing and related producer services. Neglected are economic sectors that are less prominent in recent debates, such as retailing and non-durable manufacturing. Second, large industrial cities, assumed to drive the regional economy, receive most attention. Mid-sized trade centers tend to be overlooked, even though their importance to regional change and rural transformation is long recognized.(2) Third, the geographic scale of analysis is broad regional contrasts or case studies of particular industries, locales, and production networks; intra-regional variations are not systematically explored. Also, patterns of change from case studies often are extrapolated, at least implicitly, into general trends. Emerging, then, is a homogeneous old industrial region, buffeted by macro-economic/global changes of the post-1970s, rather than a portrayal indicating how recent changes play out differentially across locales with varying socio-economic conditions.
That earlier work limits our vision is underscored by Page and …