AUBURN, AL – NOVEMBER 20, 2016: Professor Tony Overfelt sits at his desk at Auburn University. Overfelt directs additive manufacturing in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, which has been instrumental in the university’s partnership with General Electric. In 2014 GE chose Auburn as the location for their first facility dedicated to 3D printing of high-volume products, and is heavily recruiting Auburn students for employment after graduation.
In much of the United States, global trade and technological innovation has failed to produce the prosperity hoped for by political and business leaders. Yet despite formidable economic challenges, some localities are flourishing. In Lee County, Ala., unemployment is below the national average despite the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs, and the key to the county’s resilience may be Auburn University, which provided a steady source of employment during recessions and helped draw new businesses to replace those that fled. CREDIT: Bob Miller for The Wall Street Journal