In the 1850s Birmingham was known as the Pittsburgh of the South, mainly for all the steel and rail industry centered in these foothills of the Appalachians, about 700 miles south of its northern cousin community. Its British namesake occupied the leadership position in the UK, and most of Europe. Some will point out that the south suffered after the Civil war, mostly in economic investment, but the southern mills did hold their own. The big changes came about with the introduction of the auto, and for many reasons, early industrial areas got bypassed in favor of Detroit.
Not only Birmingham, but places like Cleveland and Philadelphia were once THE centers of auto production. In the first decade of the last century, Indiana had far more car companies than Michigan. How was Birmingham to compete with its fewer investors, and even fewer local buyers?
Then in the World Wars, there was a mass migration of the southern job force to the Motor City, and Birmingham was left to muddle along. As car companies began looking for more receptive locations and work forces, the South beckoned, and now Mercedes and Honda both have plants in Alabama, close to Birmingham.
Subaru also has had their ups and downs, coming to the US as a thrifty econo car in the post gas crisis boom, but then getting left behind by the bigger imports. They were smart enough to latch onto the SUV craze, and showed Americans that capable all-wheel drive vehicles didn't have to be awkward and inefficient. They have led the trend toward cross-over vehicles that combine the space and the foul weather security of trucks, with the comfort and sensibility of station wagons.
Now that the fortunes of Subaru and the South are rising, as buyers are looking beyond the clumsy trucks, and car companies are abandoning the old factories and the intransigent labor attitudes of the North. Subaru is quietly examining their options, and like so many other car companies, is likely to find a good fit for a new plant in the south . .. maybe Birmingham!