The loss of manufacturing jobs gutted these smaller metropolitan and rural areas. What will it take to revive them? Michael Collins explores.

During the 20th century, America built thousands of manufacturing plants in small cities in the Midwest. There were food processing plants, auto manufacturers, textile fabric mills, cut and sew apparel mills, paper mills, foundries, hand tool manufacturers, major appliance manufacturers, machine shops, and many others, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data from that era. When these plants were built, whole communities formed around them providing good paying jobs for millions of people without college degrees, as well as jobs for all of their supplier companies and the merchants in the communities.

Things began to change for these communities in the 1980s, when American corporations began to outsource production and re-engineer their organizations to adapt to globalization. But, at the turn of the 21st century, two things happened that would seal the fate of many of these communities. The Chinese were allowed into the World Trade Organization and the NAFTA Agreement went into effect. These changes led to the devastation of many smaller cities and towns.

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