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THE MAIN ECONOMIC REGIONS OF THE USA
1. The Northeast
2. The Great Lakes and the South
3. The Plains and the Rocky Mountains
4. The Pacific Region
The USA is the leading economic power in the world. It is a fully developed industrial country with a very solid agricultural basis. The states of the USA can be grouped into regions that have common historical, economic and physical characteristics. From this point of view we can single out six major regions. They are: 1) The Northeast, 2) The Great Lakes, 3) The South, 4) The Plains, 5) The Rocky Mountains and 6) The Pacific states.
The Northeastis made up of the New England states and the Middle Atlantic States. The New England states generally lie east of the Hudson River valley. They are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The Middle Atlantic States are New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. The manufacturing industry and trade have made the Northeast an urban region. About 80% of the people live in cities that produce goods like steel, clothing and books. The Northeast was the 1st region in the USA to industrialize. Today, manufacturing employs more people in the region than any other activity. The region’s largest cities are ports around good natural harbors. They are Boston, Providence, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. New York is the largest city in the country and one of the major cities of the world with more than 7 million people. But the New York metropolitan area – the city with the closely connected suburbs and smaller cities – has over 9 million people. In addition to manufacturing and trade, about 20% of the economic activity of the Northeast is connected with service. A service industry can include such activities as finance and banking, entertainment, education, insurance and government. New York, Hartford and Boston, for example, are cities where the country’s largest insurance companies are situated. New York is a world center of banking and entertainment. Boston has for long time been one of the country’s most important centers of higher education. Washington D.C., the nation’s capital, has about half of its workers in government service. As an agricultural region, the Northeast does not have large areas of good land. Small farms are numerous in this region. There is extensive farming in the New England states with one crop being grown. Maine is famous for potatoes. The Connecticut River valley is known for tobacco. In the Middle Atlantic States grains, fruits, and vegetables are grown. In addition to this farming, the Northeast is well known all over the United States for its fishing industry.
2) THE GREAT LAKES. The region of the Great Lakes includes the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana,-Illinois, and Wisconsin. Lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan and Erie form the Northern part of the region. The Ohio River forms the southern border of the region, the Mississippi river — its western border. Water routes by way of the rivers and lakes have contributed to the region's economic growth. Raw materials are shipped into the region for use in the factories. Finished goods are shipped out to other parts of the country and abroad to foreign markets.
The Great Lakes region is the industrial heart of the United States. The region's factories produce steel, heavy machinery, farm equipment, and automobiles.
The automobile industry was once concentrated in Detroit, but now it has decentralized to other cities within the region. Cars are assembled and parts are made in such cities as Akron, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Youngstown, Milwaukee and Indianapolis. Chicago and Gary are the centers of a large steel-making area along the south shore of Lake Michigan.
Chicago is the largest city in the region and the second largest city in the country. It has a population of about 3 million people. Chicago metropolitan area has some 7 million people. Its importance is tied to the same waterways that helped to develop the region. Chicago is located on Lake Michigan. It is also tied to the Mississippi River by way of canals. Chicago, as a result, is the country's busiest inland port. It is also the busiest railroad and airline centre in the country.
In recent years, industrial growth has declined in the Great Lakes region. In part, this is because of the region's dependence on heavy industry when the greatest industrial growth is taking place in the new and newest industries, such as electronics.
Another important reason is due to growing competition from foreign countries, especially Japan. Competition is especially great in the areas of automobiles and steel. As automakers buy large amounts of steel, glass, rubber for making cars, a decline in the auto industry has a negative effect on other branches of the economy.
The Great Lakes region is also an important area for farming. Corn, wheat, and dairy products are the most important agricultural items. Farmers often rotate soybeans and corn — that is, planting corn in a field one year and soybeans the next. This rotation is needed to keep from wearing out the soil. The region has enough rainfall, which is very important for hay, grown to feed dairy cattle. Wisconsin is the most important dairy state in the region.
THE SOUTH. The region lies roughly south of the Ohio and Potomac rivers, and, with the exception of Louisiana and Arkansas, east of the Mississippi River. Those states along the Atlantic Coastal Plain — Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia — are known as the South Atlantic states. Those states in the Appalachian Highlands and along the Gulf Coastal Plain are known as the South Central states. They are West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Agriculture has long been the major economic activity of the South, although this dominance has become less in recent years. The moist, warm climate contributes to the extensive growth of tobacco in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The tobacco grown here is of high quality, and the tradition of growing it goes down to the early days of colonization. The Red Indians taught the white settlers the way to grow tobacco and they made tremendous profit out of this crop exporting it to Europe. Besides the above mentioned states it is also an important crop in Kentucky.
Cotton is another important crop for southern farmers, especially in Arkansas and Mississippi. Pecans (very specific and tasty nuts) and peanuts are grown in Georgia and citrus fruits, vegetables in Florida. Soybeans is an important crop in Arkansas. Some of the countries leading fishing areas are found along the Gulf coast. In fact, southern waters produce more than half the total national catch. Shrimp is important in the waters near Louisiana, Oysters and menhaden (American herring) are caught off the shores of Alabama and Mississippi. The waters around Florida are the source for turtles, sponges and groupers. Rivers in the South provide catches of such fish as the catfish.
Light industry, textile manufacturing, lumber mills, paper mills and the processing of food products make their contribution to industrial activity in the region. The pine forests of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana have trees for a wide number of wood products. Florida is a popular tourist area and thousands come to this beautiful place for rest and entertainment. This romantic state attracts a lot of retired people who like to enjoy their retirement in peace and warmth.
Atlanta is to the South what Chicago is to the Great Lakes region. It is a most important centre of railroad and airline transportation in the South. The city's population is more than 422,000 people, but the metropolitan area has just over 2 million people. In Florida the major urban centers are Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Recent years indicate a large movement of people to this state, especially of retired people, who like the warm climate, and of immigrants from Latin America and the islands in the Caribbean Sea.
Mining and oil drilling are important economic activities in the South Central states. There is oil and natural gas in Louisiana. Some of the country's largest coal deposits lie in the states of West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. In fact almost three-fourths of United States coal production comes from the South Central States. The reserves of coal and iron ore near Birmingham have made the city an important steel centre in the South.
Leading cities of the South Central states include Memphis, New Orleans, Nashville, and Louisville. In addition to being an important river port, Memphis provides furniture and floor products for the whole country. New Orleans is an important trading port in the delta of the Mississippi river and a major banking centre of the South. Nashville is a centre for publishing and printing and a tourist attraction as the centre for the country's music industry. Louisville has the world's largest electrical appliance plant.
3) THE REGION OF THE PLAINS is made up of those states between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains with the exception of Louisiana and Arkansas. The Northern Plains states are North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota. Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas make up the Southern Plains states.
The first American explorers of the Great Plains thought that this region was a desert. They even called it the "Great American Desert". They noted that there was a lack of trees and an almost endless sea of grass. Today, the region is considered the "American breadbasket". It yields great quantities of crops, especially wheat. Wheat is important in the states of Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.
Iowa is considered the richest of the farming states of the Northern Plains. Nearly 96 per cent of the land is arable that is fit for cultivation. The average size of a farm in Iowa is 114 hectares. Since Iowa is situated in the eastern part of the plains, it receives more rainfall than the states in the west. Corn is grown instead of wheat. In fact, Iowa is the leading state in the USA in corn production. Because of the great amount of corn which is used for fodder, Iowa also leads the nation in the raising of hogs.
The cities of the Northern Plains have developed as markets and food processing centers. The most typical ones are as follows: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Kansas City, and Omaha.
St. Louis, the largest city in the Northern Plains, was founded as a trading centre in the 1700's. But in the last 150 years it became a major industrial city. Today, manufacturing is the most important economic activity. Among its products are metals, chemicals, airplanes and automobiles.
Oil is the most important natural resource in the Southern Plains. The growing demand for oil products brought great wealth to Texas and Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Dallas, and Houston.
In addition to oil, farming is important to the Southern Plains states. The farms in the state of Oklahoma grow wheat, sorghum, cotton, corn, and peanuts. However, the state has a serious problem with soil erosion. In order to overcome this problem much of the cropland has been converted to grass land. This change has given good results: cattle raising has become a major agricultural activity in Oklahoma.
Texas is one of the most important agricultural states in the region and the country. The average size of a farm in Texas is 270 hectares, which means that the farms are quite big. Many farms belong to large corporations. Such farms are much bigger than the usual ones. They have a size of 405 hectares or even more. Vegetables and citrus fruit are grown in south Texas, and wheat and cotton are grown in the north of the state. Texas leads the country in both the number of cattle and sheep.
Though Texas has more individual farmers than any other state, most of the people in the state live in cities of over 50,000 population. In recent years the growth of the population in Texas is rapid. Many people migrate to Texas from other states because of its warm climate and the availability of service jobs in the growing cities.
Houston is among the largest cities of the USA with around 1,5 million people in the city and about 3 million in the metropolitan area. It is becoming the national centre for technology for space exploration, energy and medicine, Dallas is the second largest city in Texas with about 1 million people. The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area has about 3 million people. Its economy is based on the manufacturing of electrical equipment, airplane parts, clothing, and the processing of food products. San Antonio is the third largest city in the state and among the largest cities of the country. Its population of about 800,000 people is engaged in food processing, manufacturing and government service.
THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS. The Rocky Mountain region is made up of the states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The most striking feature of this region is the small population compared to other regions of the United States. Large parts of the region have few or no people. This is mainly due to the lack of water, which will continue to influence the development of the region in the future.
Farms in the dry areas of the region are situated along the water-ways or where there is irrigation. The main crops are cotton, potatoes, wheat, barley, and sugar beets. As there is lack of water, many farmers find it more profitable to raise livestock; the cattle and sheep require a lot of land on which to graze. Therefore many of the ranches in the region are very large. Their sizes can be as large as 900 hectares.
Though agriculture in the region has many problems because of lack of water and poor soils, the Rocky Mountains are rich in mineral and energy resources. Gold and silver were the first resources discovered in the 19th century. Today, a number of minerals are mined such as copper, mercury, and molybdenum, which is used to strengthen steel. Coal and iron ore are mined in Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. On this basis a regional steel industry has developed.
Oil, natural gas, and coal are now of major importance to the Rocky Mountains region. It is believed that under much of Wyoming and Colorado there are large deposits of oil shale that is rocks containing oil. From these rocks oil can be received. The Powder River Basin of Wyoming is now one of the most important coal mining region of the country.
The major cities of the region are Phoenix and Denver. Phoenix has about 800,000 people in the city and 1.5 million in the metropolitan area. It is an important producer of electronic products, computers, airplanes, steel, aluminum, and chemicals. Denver wi1 about half a million people in the city and 1.6 million in the metropolitan area has an economy based on federal government service including a mint where they make coined money. Food processing and the making of transportation equipment are also important.
4) THE PACIFIC REGION includes those states which are washed by the Pacific Ocean. They are Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington.
Due to its location on the ocean, the region has important fisheries. California holds the first place in the country for its catch. The most important fish caught are anchovy, tuna, and mackerel. Alaska and Washington are the main suppliers of salmon and halibut. Fishing in Hawaii is mainly for sport and recreation.
California also leads the Pacific states in farming. It is the country's leading grower of fruits and vegetables. Much of California's farming is done in the Central Valley. The farms in the valley produce cattle, dairy products, cotton, grapes, tomatoes, and citrus fruits.
In Oregon and Washington, the Cascade Mountains divide the states into two different farming zones. In the dry eastern zone, wheat is grown, and cattle is raised. West of the Cascade Mountains, in Oregon's Willamette Valley, for example, regular rainfall and a mild climate allow good yields of such crops, as beans, pears, onions, and corn. 'In Washington, cherries and apples are major fruits. Both states are among the most important sources of timber in the United States.
Some large-scale commercial farms in Hawaii grow sugarcane and pineapples. However, both Alaska and Hawaii must import most of their food from the mainland states.
Tourism plays a very important role in the economy of Hawaii. Alaska, which in the past depended mainly on fishing and timber, now receives great profit from oil production. Production began in 1959, the year Alaska became a state. In 1968, oil was discovered in the North Slope of the Brooks Range near Prudhoe Bay. Today a pipeline takes oil pumped at Alaska's Prudhoe Bay in the north to the port of Valdez in the south for further shipment. Construction of the massive pipeline over thousands of kilometers of wilderness had been delayed because of serious concerns for the environment. Completion of the pipeline has helped increase Alaska's profits. Today the state has the highest profits per capita, or per head of the population of the state.
The fastest growing industries in the Pacific region are in electronics and technical products. A large number of companies making electronics parts are found in an area around the city of San Jose. This area is known as the Silicon Valley. It is named for the Silicon Chip, which is a basic part in modern electronics products.
Most of the region's large cities are ports. Los Angeles, the third largest city in the country, has a population of about 3 million people. There are some 7.5 million people in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Los Angeles and neighboring Long Beach have very good harbors which are well protected behind 15 kilometers of break water. Together with several fine airports they serve as the West Coast's major gateways for trade with the countries of the Pacific Ocean. The Los Angeles area is a giant centre of aircraft production, computers, communications equipment, motor cars, and cosmetics. It is also a major region of space technology. Los Angeles's position as a world centre of finance and industry has also stimulated the development of such services as health care, accounting, education, law. However, Los Angeles is also known all over the world as the city of entertainment because of Hollywood, which is the world capital of film production. In the 1940s, the peak years of movie making, Hollywood produced more than 400 films a year. Today TV is competing successfully with the traditional film industry, but Hollywood has also changed, producing quite a lot of films for American TV. Los Angeles is also a city of striking contrasts. There are many Hispanics, Asians, Blacks living here and these people in their majority have poorly paid jobs. Therefore social tension in many districts of Los Angeles is very high. It was no wonder that in 1992 there were mass riots in Los Angeles which shocked all America.
The other major city on the Pacific coast of the United States is San Francisco. It lies at the tip of land broken by the narrow channel of the Golden Gate. Through this Channel the tides of the Pacific pour into a great bay. The city has long been a centre of trade, finance, shipping, culture for more than three million people in the metropolitan bay area. Asian immigrants together with many waves of European settlers have made San Francisco a city of many nationalities and different cultures. Freight from ports all over the world is unloaded at a fine harbor, while long lines of freight trains bring into the city the fruit from the countryside. The transcontinental railroad connects San Francisco with the industrial and agricultural centers of the Midwest and the East, thus providing an interchange of goods and passengers. And at the city's airport, which is one of the largest in the United States, there are about 400,000 landings and takeoffs a year. Great streams of motor traffic cross the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, which is 1.6 kilometers long, to the north shore.
In the first decade of the 20th century, this major city of the west was in ruin. In 1906 a great earthquake destroyed the city. But within three years, 20,000 new buildings were constructed, and in seven years, a new city had risen out of the ashes. Several years ago, another serious earthquake hit the city, but it did not cause much damage because the buildings were well protected against the forces of nature.