Is There a Future for 'Made in America'?
Is American manufacturing dead? Those who think so point to manufacturing's plummeting share of the national economy as a predictor of its eventual demise. But they likely have never been to Butler County. Here, north of Pittsburgh, in the heart of western Pennsylvania, basic manufacturing still drives the local economy. It has survived around here--indeed, thrived--suggesting that America, too, has an industrial future.
Butler County's economy has long depended on making steel and fashioning it into precision tools, industries that most Americans think have largely fled overseas. To survive, companies here have successfully adapted, using flexible manufacturing techniques that marry computers with a skilled workforce to craft products for international markets. And in the wake of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the unemployment rate in Butler County stood at just 6.8 percent in September, far lower than the national average.
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