In the 1950s, a third of those who worked in the area used their hands to make cars and cans, soap and sugar, tools and spices. But that steel-solid manufacturing core was barely holding on by the dawn of this decade.

Bethlehem Steel declared bankruptcy in 2001. General Motors' Broening Highway plant assembled its last van in 2005.

At ghostly Sparrows Point, once teeming with 30,000 steelworkers, just a couple of thousand people punch in.

The region's economy now centers on the head, not the hands, with workers in the lab rather than on the line.

Johns Hopkins institutions rose to dominate the employment ranks. Hospitals across the region expanded. Large biotech parks sprouted on Baltimore's east and west sides, luring scientists and researchers seeking the medical world's next great thing.

The factories died, but for those in lab coats instead of coveralls, tens of thousands of new jobs took their place.