The state’s manufactures have been greatly diversified since the early 19th century, when shoes and textiles were dominant in the economy. During the 20th century the producers of these goods moved most of their operations to states where laborers could be recruited for lower wages. Durable goods, especially communications equipment, medical instruments, monitoring devices, industrial machinery, and electrical equipment, now occupy the place vacated by these soft goods. Defense and the space age increased research and manufacturing in the areas of electronics, instruments, and nuclear energy.
The high-technology industries became very important to the economy in the mid-1970s. By the late 1980s about two-fifths of the state’s total manufacturing labor force, or 245,000 people, were working for firms specializing in high-technology items, such as word processors and computer parts. In contrast, only about 100,000 people worked in high-technology companies in 1975. The largest concentrations of high-technology firms are found in Boston, Cambridge, and the cities of Newton, Waltham, Lincoln, Lexington, Burlington, and Woburn, which lie to the west or north of Boston along roads ringing the city.
The instrument industry is the leading source of personal income from manufacturing in the state. Its products include surgical appliances, photographic equipment and supplies, optical instruments, industrial controls, and measurement instruments. Another leading source for personal income is the manufacture of electric and electronic equipment, including semiconductors, telephones, radios, televisions, and printed circuit boards.
The manufacture of industrial machinery and equipment, such as computers, rolling mill machinery, special tools and dies, turbines, generators, and specialized machinery for the printing industry, also contributes significantly to personal income in the state. Among the older industries of the state that have continued to prosper are printing and publishing and paper manufacturing.
In 1639 the first printing press in the colonies was brought by Stephen Daye to Cambridge, where he founded the Cambridge Press. Publishing is one of the leading industries in the Boston area. There is substantial commercial printing and specialty work such as bookbinding. The state also produces greeting cards and high-quality special papers. For example, the paper used in U.S. currency is manufactured in the town of Dalton. The fabricated metal industry continues to play an important role in the economy, with firms producing cutlery, a variety of hand tools, industrial valves, and small arms and ammunition.
Another major industry in the state is food processing, including candy making and the processing of fish, cranberries, gelatin, and sugar. The pharmaceuticals industry contributes significantly to the state’s economy as well. The transportation equipment industry is also important, particularly firms making aircraft engines and parts for guided missiles and space-exploration vehicles. Although manufacturing is scattered throughout the state, it is especially prominent in certain areas. One is the large Greater Boston area, which takes in such communities as Cambridge, Quincy, Needham, Newton, Framingham, Lynn, Waltham, Norwood, Somerville, Peabody, and Salem.
It has a sizable proportion of the state’s printing and publishing. Boston is also the center for food processing, shipbuilding, and the manufacture of transportation equipment and nonelectrical machinery. The area accounts for much of New England’s electronics manufacturing, which is especially concentrated along Route 128, a highway that arcs around Boston.
Inland, industry has traditionally located in the river valleys to take advantage of both waterpower and natural transportation routes. The Connecticut Valley cities of Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee make up the second most important manufacturing region. Springfield’s products include firearms, precision instruments, chemicals, hardware, and plastics. Holyoke has remained a textile and paper town but the production of electronic equipment and fabricated steel have become important. Nearby Chicopee makes sporting goods and inflatable rubber products. The industrial cities of Pittsfield and North Adams, on the Housatonic River in the northwestern part of the state, have attracted several manufacturers of electrical components and equipment.
Until the late 1970s, the Merrimack Valley cities of Lawrence and Lowell were almost exclusively engaged in manufacturing cotton and wool textiles. As the textile industry contracted, electronics and communications plants moved in. Also part of the Merrimack Valley complex is Haverhill, which has specialized in shoe manufacturing and is known for high-technology components.
The manufacturing region that ranks third in income generated by industry is Worcester. It processes metals and manufactures industrial machinery, machine tools, abrasives, and plastics. In the same vicinity are Gardner, which manufactures furniture, and Leominster, a leading plastics center.
Industrial concentration is also prominent in the southeastern part of the state in the formerly great textile manufacturing cities of Fall River and New Bedford. Among Massachusetts’s oldest cities, these textile centers experienced heavy unemployment and population losses as the textile industry declined. Labor-intensive mills lost their competitive edge and production moved south or overseas throughout the 1970s. However, the apparel industry in Fall River helped somewhat to bridge the employment gap caused by the exodus of textiles. In the late 1970s and early 1980s local textiles changed their focus to specialty niches, thereby turning around the decline in the last 15 years. Textile production is now the largest industry in the Fall River/New Bedford area, followed by needle trades, apparel, and fish processing. "Massachusetts" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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