Saturday, October 27, 2007

America's Rust Belt Diaspora Capital

Charlotte (North Carolina) is the city that globalization built. The deregulation of finance at the national and state scale paved the way for Charlotte to become a banking center of international stature. Meanwhile, manufacturing was shifting from the economically mature Rust Belt to countries where the cost of labor was exponentially cheaper. Emblematic of the resulting migration is the relocation of Pittsburgh's global prominence south to Charlotte.

Pittsburgh's developing place in the postindustrial economy slipped away to Charlotte. Pittsburgh, along with any other Rust Belt city, wasn't in any position to do much about Charlotte's boom. All the strengths of industrial cities were now liabilities. As a result, people from all over the Northeast and Midwest flocked to Charlotte (among other cities in the Southeast). But perhaps more than any other Sun Belt city, Charlotte is a place built by outsiders from the Rust Belt:

Pittsburgh Steelers fans fill the Big Al's in Mooresville to near its 150-person capacity, with some watching from outside and listening to the game over an outdoor speaker.

"Right after church, you come here to get your second religious experience," Steelers fan Suzanne Holly of Mooresville said. She's a 20-year transplant from Irwin, Pa., who wore her Steelers jersey at the Mooresville Big Al's for last Sunday night's game...

...Each restaurant is bedecked with team memorabilia. The Big Al's in Mooresville displays autographed Steelers photos, an inflatable Steelers guy, banners and an original pennants. The Big Al's in Cornelius has Bills jerseys and photos and plays the team's fight song after touchdowns.

The Charlotte media doesn't have any problem catering to the economically displaced. As someone who spends a lot of time each and every day reading about the Rust Belt Diaspora, Charlotte is easily the most tolerant of its newcomers. In fact, Charlotte is more than the city that globalization built. It is the city that the best of the Rust Belt built.

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