Monday, August 11, 2008

Migratory Industries

Late last week, a ship unloaded dozens of huge steel tubes on Portland's waterfront - the first activity at Portland's cargo terminal since a container-shipping barge ceased operations a few weeks ago. These were the segmented towers that will soon be assembled into the state of New Hampshire's first large-scale wind farm, in Lempster.

According to the local paper, "The turbines, produced by the Spanish company Gamesa, were originally headed for Fairless Hills, Pa., but were diverted because Portland proved to be a more efficient and affordable option for the shipment of the freight."

What's in Fairless Hills? A quick google search reveals that Fairless Hills is an industrial city west of Trenton, New Jersey, where Gamesa recently invested millions of dollars to build modern windmill factories on the former site of U.S. Steel. The news article is scant on specifics, but apparently these turbine parts will be shipped directly to New Hampshire and assembled there, instead of being routed through Pennsylvania, in order to save on shipping costs.

So here, on the Portland waterfront, the changing industrial migration patterns of the early 21st century are coming together like Matryoshka dolls. With a weakening economy, Maine's exports of container-shipped goods dry up. The state's only container-shipping terminal goes dormant, leaving room for a Spanish corporation to open a temporary logistics office.

Meanwhile, an abandoned steel mill in Pennsylvania witnesses millions of dollars of new investment from a European wind-energy corporation. On a site that had once imported coal and iron ore from Appalachia and exported finished steel, a Spanish company now imports steel from China to export renewable energy generators to American prairies and hilltops.

And as always, huge oil tankers come and go in a regular, unceasing beat, delivering increasingly expensive crude oil into Portland's pipeline and to the refineries of New Jersey.

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