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Lawrence's residents see the community as an older, urban, industrialized city whose history parallels that of the country as a whole. Originally a rural farming town, the city was transformed into a major industrial center when Boston entrepeneurs developed huge textile mills on the Merrimack River to use the power of its water falls. The mill owners built canals, a dam and a reservoir, boarding houses and a machine shop for locomotives, creating one of the first industrial complexes in the country. Employees came first from other parts of New England to work in the mills, but the city has traditionally served as an entry point to immigrants and by the turn of the century, Irish, Polish, Italian, Syrian and French-Canadians were following the jobs to Lawrence and setting a standard of proud diversification for the city which is maintained to this day with newcomers from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Vietnam and Cambodia. Despite the huge technological changes over the years, the manufacture of textiles and of men's and women's clothing is still central to Lawrence's economy and some of the finest names in apparel are made in the city. City planners are working to broaden the city's industrial and business base and diversify.
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