[Excerpt] The Naugatuck Valley in western Connecticut was once the center of the American brass industry and one of the most intensely industrialized areas on earth. From its center in Waterbury, the region's major city, with a population of 100,000, the Valley runs north through the towns of Thomaston and Torrington and south through Naugatuck, Seymour, Derby and Ansonia. Like so many industrial areas of the Northeast and Midwest, its workers are primarily the descendants of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe, with more recent additions of Blacks from the South and Puerto Ricans. During the 1960s and '70s it could have been renamed "deindustrial valley," as dozens of plants were sold or closed.

Like those in similar areas elsewhere, the people of the Naugatuck Valley have found that their established approaches have given them little leverage over deindustrialization. Conventional union tactics have exerted little influence over companies prepared to close up or sell the shop. Legislation to affect plant closings has been difficult to pass, and when passed has had limited impact. Local communities have felt powerless in the face of decisions made in distant board rooms; until recently, few efforts have been made to affect those decisions, even when they threatened the lifeblood of Naugatuck Valley communities.

Over the past three years, the Valley has developed a regional organization of more than 50 religious, labor, community and small business organizations. Called the Naugatuck Valley Project, its purpose is to give workers and communities more influence over their economic destiny.