The Politics of Plant Closings
The spectre of a plant closing can cast a deep shadow over a city. During the last fifteen years plant closings have eliminated about 15 million factory jobs and, as a result, brought economic devastation to numerous plant-dependent cities.
Other writers have chronicled the often catastrophic effects of these shutdowns on urban workers and their communities. John Portz is the first to provide an in-depth look at what local governments have done—and can do—to cope with these crises.
“A major contribution to the economic development policy literature in general.”
“Portz presents a clearly written series of case studies and a much needed analytical framework that examines the diversity of local municipal responses to plant closings.”
—Labor Studies JournalSee all reviews...
“Portz captures nicely the complexity of public policy making in a political-economy context. He gives full weight to the ‘privileged position of business,’ but sees that a variable public role is possible, depending on the nature of political mobilization, institutional capacities, leadership skills, and the variety of policy tools available.”
—Political Science Quarterly
“Will have a definite impact on the field of urban scholarship.”
—Bryan Jones, coauthor of The Sustaining Hand: Community Leadership and Corporate Power
“A significant and very well written study that has much to tell us about local government’s role in industrial policymaking.”
—Lawrence E. Rothstein, author of Plant Closings: Power, Politics, and Workers
“Portz uses the best available theoretical literature on urban politics and makes it come alive with compelling case studies. Readers both inside and outside the academic world will benefit from his analysis of why and how local governments respond to plant closings.”
—Sanford F. Schramm, coauthor of "Plant Closing Legislation and Issues" in Deindustrialization and Plant ClosingsSee fewer reviews...
Portz combines a rich synthesis of the literature on urban politics and political economy with a close analysis of plant closings in Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Waterloo, Iowa, to illuminate the complexity of, constraints upon, and range of city government's efforts to control the economic damage caused by shutdowns.
When U.S. Steel attempted to close its plant near Pittsburgh, local governments in the area banded together to form the Steel Valley Authority and went head-to-head with corporate headquarters. A less aggressive stance was taken by the city officials of Waterloo, who tried to offset the effects of a meatpacking plant shutdown through creative financing and consensus-building among government, union, and company officials. In Louisville, crisis resolution efforts were dominated by private market forces, institutions, and individuals—the city government was relegated to the role of bystander.
Although the actions taken by the three city governments varied widely, all three cases illustrate both the dilemmas imposed upon the dependent city by a plant closing and the potential for creative and effective solutions.