The maps have been showing for some time that manufacturing areas in the Southeast and Midwest have been the hardest hit in rural America during this recession. The communities that attracted factory jobs in the ’70s and ’80s are finding that those jobs are leaving. The Des Moines Register reports that towns in Iowa with fewer than 30,000 residents have lost 20,000 factory jobs since 2007. Iowa State University economist reports that this is twice as many factory jobs lost in the state’s major metro areas of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport.
“Production of grain bins, car crushers and cereal makes up the largest chunk of Iowa’s economy at 21 percent, about $28.2 billion of the state’s $135.7 billion gross domestic product, 2008 federal data show,” write reporters Donnelle Eller and Jeff Eckhoff. “Manufacturing contributes more to Iowa’s economy than insurance and finance, construction, and agriculture combined. Iowa’s economic dependence on manufacturing ranks second in the nation only after Indiana.”
The reporters go to Webster City, Iowa, where local officials are looking to wind power jobs to replace those lost at a large Electrolux plant that is closing. “The whole state and Midwest is going after wind,” said Gary Sandholm, Webster City’s economic development leader (above). “But we have a natural advantage, and we’re going to try to exploit it.”