Because of the wide variety of manufactures made in Pennsylvania, including basic industrial goods as well as consumer goods, the state was long known as the Workshop of America. This is less true today, however, because of major declines in the iron and steel and machinery industries. Until the 1980s primary metals industries ranked first in the state. In the late 1970s and first half of the 1980s the iron and steel industry was savaged by national economic recessions, high costs, aging equipment, and foreign competition. Many steel mills were permanently closed, and thousands of workers lost their jobs. Between 1977 and 1986, more than 100,000 jobs disappeared in the primary metals industries. Over the same period, 36,000 jobs disappeared in the machinery industry. By 1993 the manufacturing sector held 13 percent fewer jobs than ten years before.
The manufacture of electronic equipment has become the state’s leading industry. Firms making products such as communications systems, silicon wafers for semiconductors, and electronic components for engines have made Pennsylvania a leading high-technology manufacturing state. The production of chemicals, principally pharmaceuticals, is the state’s second largest industry in terms of valued added by manufacturing. Other manufactures by biotechnology firms include medical devices.
Food processing is now the state’s third largest industry. Pennsylvania is the nation’s leading producer of chocolate and cocoa products and ranks high in the production of ice cream, potato chips, pretzels, sausages, and canned mushrooms.
Because the decline in the U.S. steel industry has been nationwide, Pennsylvania still makes more steel than any other state, and the primary metal industry remains a large contributor to the gross state product. The iron and steel industry originated in southeastern Pennsylvania near the state’s iron ore deposits. As coke, made from bituminous coal, replaced charcoal as a blast-furnace fuel, the industry moved westward to the Pittsburgh area. Here, bituminous coal was close at hand and iron ore could be shipped in cheaply from the Lake Superior region and abroad. Pittsburgh’s industrialized area later expanded throughout much of southwestern Pennsylvania. Complementing Pennsylvania’s iron and steel industry are the factories distributed throughout the state that manufacture hundreds of metal products, including industrial machinery, farm implements, railroad cars and equipment, automobile bodies and parts, scientific instruments, tools and hardware, and metal pipes and tubing. Philadelphia is a major producer of fabricated metal goods, transportation equipment, electrical equipment, and all kinds of machinery. Metalworking plays an important role in the economy of the state’s smaller industrial cities and towns. Along with metal-products plants many industrial towns have clothing factories and textile mills that make yarns, fabrics, and rugs and carpets.
Other leading manufacturers in Pennsylvania include printers and publishers, with hundreds of firms publishing newspapers, periodicals, and books; paper manufacturers, with outputs such as corrugated boxes and sanitary paper products; and industries producing transportation equipment, including aircraft, railroad equipment, motor vehicle parts, and equipment for use in space. The Philadelphia Metropolitan area, which has been the state’s chief manufacturing center since colonial times, has more than 7,000 factories that turn out an extraordinary array of products, with textiles, clothing, and metal goods leading in importance. Printing and publishing, petroleum refining, and sugar refining are also major industries. Pittsburgh is a major manufacturer of secondary metal goods, chemicals, glass and clay products, and processed foods. Other important industrial areas include Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, the tri-city area of Easton, Allentown, and Bethlehem, and the cities of Reading, York, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Chester, Erie, Johnstown, Altoona, and Williamsport. "Pennsylvania" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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