In Granite City, Illinois, Economic Recovery Can Be Complicated Endeavor

For more than 130 years, the economy in Granite City, Ill. has been steel.

In 2008, the 30,000 residents of this small town along the Mississippi River saw what happened when their economic backbone bent. U.S. Steel temporarily shuttered a mill that employed 2,200.

Now, the steel industry is back. The mill has re-opened. Officials say it is “fully staffed” at 2,200 employees and a union representative tells our friends at St. Louis Public Radio that “its future is probably more secure now than it’s been in a long time. And these are good-paying jobs.”

The station profiled Granite City this morning, examining its past, its Great Recession devastation and its rebirth. But Granite City’s story isn’t a simple redemption story. The landscape is more complicated.

Economic hardships remain. Union officials say they are seeing more college graduates apply for jobs at the mill, even as the work lies outside their realms of study. And attempts to diversify the steel-heavy economy are slow going. A central challenge:

“People only see us as a dirty steel town,” one small-business owner tells St. Louis Public Radio. “And we’re much more than that.”

 

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