Economic Development Agendas and the Rhetoric of Local Community Action: Locating Mercedes Benz in Vance, Alabama
Ralph B. Brown, Clark D. Hudspeth, and Janet S. Odom
In a global economy dominated by multinationals, to what extent can rural towns act to foster local economic development? Community development theories generally hold that collective action at the local level along with infrastructure development are key elements in attracting new business and/or industry to an area ( Castle 1991). On September 30, 1993, Mercedes Benz announced the site for the auto maker's first U.S. factory----Vance, Alabama, located 30 miles east of Tuscaloosa. The state of Alabama expects more than 9,500 new direct and indirect jobs in the first year, resulting in direct and indirect wages as high as $294 million. Further, tax receipts are projected to increase $16 million the first year ( Tuscaloosa News [TTN] October 1993).
Mercedes could have built the new plant elsewhere. What was it about Vance, population 226, that put it above all other places being considered? Who were the players involved in the effort to locate the Mercedes facility in Vance, and what was the role of the community itself?
Rural areas have moved beyond an insular local economic base to places with a genuine stake in the global economy. Extensive national and global markets provide consumer products to even the most isolated rural resident ( Brown 1993). These global economic forces have dramatically reshaped the face of rural America, and new obstacles constantly present themselves to rural