Steel matters. As a material, it is critical to the infrastructure of economic development and the consumer durables and capital goods that fuel that development. As an industry, nations have used steel manufacturing as an instrument of economic, social, and regional policies. As an industrial base for regional economies, the steel industry has helped to define the character and identity of great cities. By examining critical periods of restructuring in this industry, the role of economic geography as a competitive factor is readily exposed. Moreover, the consequences of industry restructuring play out dramatically in terms of the well-being of regions. Whether examining the competitive factors linked to location or their consequences for regions, an important basis for explanation is to be found in steelmaking technology and related costs. The analysis offered in this chapter links technology-based competition, demand patterns, and managerial agency to describe and explain the process of restructuring in the American and global steel industries in terms of their economic geography. Our analysis begins with a very brief explanation about how steel is made in order to help focus attention on some basic locational factors in the industry and provide a basis for explaining the relationship between alternative technologies and competition among steel firms. With this understanding, our analysis is framed by reference to long trends in industry restructuring as they play out for the geography of production in the United States.
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