Birmingham, Alabama, was, from the post civil war years when it was founded, until well into the 20th century, noted for being the industrial center of the South, particularly in the production of iron and steel, earning itself the nickname, "The Pittsburgh of the South".

But economic changes and the shifting of steel production to smaller mills or to foreign plants, have affected Birmingham just as they have most other older cities whose local economies centered on heavy industries and the workers who were employed in the mills and factories. Birmingham, already carrying the burden of racial tension and the aftermath of protests in the 1950s, 1960s, and the 1970s, seemed ready to fade into history and endure a slow death.

Or perhaps not.

According to a recent article in the Birmingham News, the city and NanoInk Inc. are forming a plan to develop programs to train students to fill the jobs that will be opening in nanoindustries in the future, which will need trained workers to fill the anticipated 2 million openings expected by 2015, according to the National Science Foundation.

Granted, its a small bit of hope to hang onto, but in a down economy, a small bit of hope is better than no hope at all. And, if Birmingham, which does have a growing share of the medical device production industry, can bounce back, then perhaps other cities, such as my own home city of Baltimore, can shed their industrial pasts and look towards the future with hope.