At Exit Zero: Recovering from deindustrialization in Southeast Chicago

Posted by LDonia on 05/10/2013

Last month, representatives from the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) participated in a forum at the Chicago Field Museum on the effects of deindustrialization. 

The forum followed a screening of Exit Zero, a documentary by Chris Boebel based on the book (of the same name) written by Christine Walley. The book and the film tell the story of the once-vibrant communities that sprung up around the Southeast Chicago steel industry, and the impact that manufacturing job loss had on the people that reside at Exit 0, right off the Chicago Skyway. Walley and Boebel describe how Walley’s family and childhood community suffered and survived the closing of dozens of mills -- including the one where her father worked, Wisconsin Steel. 

The post-screening forum centered around the question: What is to be done to restore communities devastated by deindustrialization?

AAM Field Coordinator Rachel Bennett Steury offered up policy solutions to support manufacturing. Her suggestions included: Work to level our uneven trade relationship with China, so that manufacturing communities in the US will have a better chance of competing in an international marketplace, and; press for an increase in domestic infrastructure spending so that transit networks are safe, reliable, American-made, and beneficial to industrial growth here at home. 

Bennett Steury presented Walley and Boebel with honorary hard hats for their work to highlight how manufacturing was the bedrock for many communities like Southeast Chicago. Reaching for the American Dream isn't just an individual endeavor, but one at the heart of industrial communities across the country. With the right kind of industrial policies, said Bennett Steury, we can make that dream attainable again for places like the neighborhoods at Exit 0.

Other organizations participating in the forum include People for Community Recovery, Southeast Environmental Task Force.

(Pictured: Bennett Steury with Walley and Boebel.)

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