Although Michigan has a diversified economy, it stands out as an industrial state, ranking fifth in the United States in value added by manufacturing in 1996. Michigan, especially its southern region, already had some industries before the automotive age. In the middle of the 19th century sawmilling, brewing and distilling, and flour milling had begun to develop. About the time of the American Civil War (1861-1865), Detroit began to smelt copper and to make iron and steel and railroad equipment. Based on native lumber, carriage making flourished in Lansing, Pontiac, Flint, and Detroit. Automobile manufacturing was a logical and natural outgrowth of the early carriage industry.
Transportation equipment, industrial machines of many kinds, electronic devices, and metal processing dominate the state’s manufacturing. Michigan leads the nation in automobile production. Other important manufactures include plastics, pharmaceuticals, soaps and cleansers, milled grain, dry cereals, agricultural machinery, office furniture, dairy products, preserved fruits and vegetables, printed matter, electrical equipment, construction materials, and measuring and control devices. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Michigan’s automobile industry was devastated by national economic recessions and competition from foreign manufacturers. Foreign cars that were smaller, more fuel-efficient, and more reliable than U.S. cars captured a big share of the U.S. market while economic recessions also reduced sales.
Massive layoffs in the U.S. automobile industry soon resulted. But by the mid-1980s the industry had partly recovered, primarily through sales of trucks and of luxury automobiles. The recovery was complete by the 1990s, although increased automation and the opening of production plants elsewhere in the country left the industry permanently changed.
The manufacture of motor vehicles is centered largely in Detroit, Dearborn, Flint, and Pontiac. Much of the income generated by manufacturing in the state originates in Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, Monroe, Lapeer, and Saint Clair counties, which the U.S. census calls the Detroit primary metropolitan statistical area. The Detroit area is the home of the so-called Big Three automotive manufacturers—General Motors Corporation has headquarters in Detroit, Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, and DaimlerChrysler AG in Auburn Hills. Best known of the Detroit area industrial establishments is Ford’s River Rouge plant in Dearborn. The plant is virtually a manufacturing city, with more than 160 km (100 mi) of railroad track within the industrial complex. Body and automobile parts manufacturers are spread throughout the Greater Detroit area in such places as Hamtramck, Warren, Sterling Heights, Wayne, Southfield, and Troy. Farm machinery, machine tools, and chemicals based largely on salt are also important products in the Detroit area. Other significant industries are steelmaking, food processing, petroleum refining, and printing and publishing.
Among the other leading manufacturing centers is Flint, which has been virtually a one-industry city because of its dependence on automotive production. The majority of its manufacturing workers are employed by General Motors. Automobile parts are also part of Grand Rapids’s manufacturing structure, although that city manufactures a considerable amount of furniture. Grand Rapids has lost a great deal of the low-cost furniture market and now is stressing its skill in manufacturing quality furniture. Lansing, another important automotive center, has developed research facilities and industry related to science, technology, and agriculture.
Saginaw, in addition to manufacturing automobiles, produces foundry work and machines and is a food processor. Muskegon also specializes in foundry work and has become a manufacturer of sporting-goods products, namely billiard tables and bowling equipment. Paper manufacturing is especially important to Kalamazoo as are pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Limestone quarrying and shipping are major activities in the Alpena region. The city is a center for portland cement and concrete production and has wood product processing and metals industries. Bay City, home to a major Great Lakes port that distributes regional agricultural and industrial products, has a variety of industries, including shipbuilding. Smaller cities with manufacturing specializations include chemicals in Midland, cereals in Battle Creek, baby food in Fremont, furniture and other wood products in Holland, petroleum headquarters in Mount Pleasant, household appliances in Benton Harbor, and automobile, electronic, and aircraft parts in Jackson. "Michigan" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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