Captives of the Cold War Economy: The Struggle for Defense Conversion in American Communities

By John J. Accordino | Go to book overview

5
Rural Areas and Small Cities:
Dependency, Adjustment,
and Conversion

Chapters 3 and 4 examined the process of mobilizing resistance and adaptation to defense-spending cutbacks in large metropolitan areas; one with a traditional economic base of shipbuilding and military bases, the other with a modern hightech base. Both communities had well-organized growth interests and export-oriented industries as well as other groups that advocated alternative approaches to development--environmental advocates in Northern Virginia and a "technology interest" in Hampton Roads. This chapter discusses the responses in rural areas and small cities. Because of their small size and narrow economic bases, one might imagine that they would be unable to challenge defense cutbacks and unable to devise alternative sources of economic activity. Yet, as discussed in previous chapters, the nature of the response depends primarily upon the nature of the community's dominant interests, as well as its prior experiences with economic dislocation. Even in small communities, elected officials, following their mandates to react to visible job loss, lead aggressive campaigns to avoid defense cutbacks. And once cutbacks occur, the cases in this chapter show that even relatively small communities can devise ways to adapt to them. Nevertheless, growth coalitions are largely absent in rural settings, so groups that might, in urban settings, be only marginal players, may be able to influence small-community responses.

The first case concerns a downsizing at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in the Appalachian foothills of southwestern Virginia. It illustrates the effect of prior experience with economic dislocation on a community's response to defense downsizing. It also describes how problems in the organization of conversion efforts at the federal level undermine local responses. The second case focuses on a BRAC'95 decision to realign an army training fort in southside

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