One of the most common names for businesses in the Southern States these days is Sunbelt. It’s even the name of a major college sports conference that was created in 1976. How did the South become the Sunbelt? This is a question that author Frank Conner addresses on pages 450-451 of his book The South Under Siege: 1830-2000. It is actually part of a much bigger story about Federal manipulation and a massive influx of first money and then millions of people. Not addressed in this short excerpt is the impact of all of this on the cultures and peoples native to the South. The period described below was just the beginning. Since then, millions more outsiders – a large number of them immigrants from the Third World (due to US immigration policy changes in 1965) – have greatly exacerbated the situation, displacing Southerners and supplanting the local culture. Connor writes:
In the late 1960s, the South was continuing to industrialize. From 1957 to 1979, manufacturing jobs in the region increased by 1.7 million. But the Southern states were still heavily dependent upon investment capital from the North for the expansion of their economies. In 1939, Southern investors and financial institutions had provided only a miniscule 25% of that capital; and even by 1976, their share had reached only 38%. And so, those Southern states were still doing everything in their power to attract more Northern businesses and investors.
Meanwhile, federal money flowed freely into the South. Agricultural crop supports were lucrative. The Cold War military bases were concentrated in the South; and by 1980, the South was receiving a full 40% of Department of Defense expenditures.
By 1980 – for the first time – the majority of Southerners held middle-class jobs. The vast gulf between incomes in the North and the South was lessening somewhat.
By the mid-1970s, people in other regions were already casting envious glances at the South. The South’s climate was warm (and the region acquired air conditioning during the 1970s); its economy was strong; its tax rates were reasonable; it had an adequate infrastructure; and it enjoyed the amenities - at least in the suburbs of the big cities. Most important, the Southerners enjoyed a better quality of life than did the peoples of most other regions: by holding on to their traditional values as best they could during the wrenching changes of the 1960s, the Southerners had preserved a more civil society. People began calling the bottom row of states stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific the “Sunbelt.”
The steady exodus of educated/skilled young people from the South was reversed. From 1975 to 1980, the South experienced a net gain of 800,000 persons from the Northeast, 700,000 from the Midwest, and 160,000 from the West.
But as admiration began to grown nationwide [sic] for the South’s climate and environment, the liberals in and out of government continued to manipulate the racial issues in the South.
Also see: Henry Grady, Atlanta & the ‘New South’