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It was at one time the state's 2nd most important industrial center, trailing only Mobile. The two cities were important shipping centers: Gadsden for riverboats and Mobile for international trade. Up until the 1980s, Gadsden was almost totally dependent on heavy industry, including Goodyear Tire, and Republic Steel. After virtually crumbling in the 1970s and 1980s, Gadsden decided its best course of action was to stop being dependent on industry, and shedding its "company town" image.
In the 1990s, Gadsden began to prosper, having changed its focus in industrial recruitment. Instead of going after the heavy industries, the city began to try and lure the more high tech companies, and automotive suppliers. The Gulf States Steel plant (formerly Republic Steel), closed in August, 2000. Today, Gadsden is a booming city, and is one of Alabama's most rapidly expanding cities, with 104,000 people living within in the Gadsden Metropolitan Area