The Upper Peninsula is northern woods country, with what has been described as "ten months of winter and two months of poor sledding." The abundance of furred animals and forests early attracted fur traders and lumberjacks. Animals were trapped out, virgin forests were stripped, and, in addition, pure copper and high-grade iron ore were rapidly wrested from the earth, so that virtually all of the Upper Peninsula's mines have been closed. Deer, bear, and other game in the forests, as well as abundant fish in streams and lakes, keep the area a rich hunting and fishing ground. Selective cutting and replanting of trees are now employed in the second-growth forests.
The Lower Peninsula is less wild, but in parts no less beautiful, than the Upper. Its forests were also cut over in the lumber boom of the late 19th cent., when Michigan was briefly the world leader in lumber production. The soil of these cut-over lands, unlike the productive earth in other areas of the Lower Peninsula, proved generally unsuitable for agriculture, and reforestation has been undertaken.
The Lower Peninsula has its own mineral riches, including gypsum, sandstone, limestone, salt, cement, sand, and gravel, but its great wealth lies in the many farms and factories. The surrounding waters temper the climate, providing a long growing season. Fields of grain and corn cover much of the southern counties, and Michigan's noted fruit belt lines the shore of Lake Michigan (the state leads the nation in the production of cherries). Dairying is the most lucrative farm business. Corn is the chief crop, followed by greenhouse products, soybeans, apples, carrots, celery, cucumbers, and other vegetables.
Manufacturing accounts for 30% of Michigan's economic production, more than twice as much as any other sector. The manufacture of automobiles and transportation equipment is by far the state's chief industry, and Detroit, Dearborn, Flint, Pontiac, and Lansing are historic centers of automobile production, although the industry is now in dramatic decline throughout the state. The automobile industry's mass-production methods, developed here, were the core of the early-20th-century industrial revolution. Other Michigan manufactures include nonelectrical machinery, fabricated metal products, primary metals, chemicals, and food products. Among Michigan's most important industrial centers are Saginaw, Bay City, Muskegon, and Jackson. The chemical industry in Midland is one of the nation's largest; Kalamazoo is an important paper-manufacturing and pharmaceuticals center; Grand Rapids is noted for its furniture, and Battle Creek for its breakfast foods.
Although mining contributes less to income in the state than either agriculture or manufacturing, Michigan still has important nonfuel mineral production, chiefly of iron ore, cement, sand, and gravel, and is a leading producer of peat, bromine, calcium-magnesium chloride, gypsum, and magnesium compounds. Abundant natural beauty and excellent fishing help to make tourism a major Michigan industry. Michigan's historic lack of manufacturing diversity has made it particularly susceptible to the fluctuations of the national economy, and in recent years it has tried to diversify, attracting high-technology industry and developing the service sector.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.