Friday, February 27, 2009
Old Fort, North Carolina
Last week Ethan Allen announced they'd be laying off about 70 people from their furniture manufacturing plant in Old Fort, NC. In addition, they are closing and re-opening the plant at two week intervals for the immediate future. This news is just the latest in a wave of furniture manufacturing layoffs and factory closings in western North Carolina. Old Fort's mayor Garland Norton worries about the effect it will have on their small town.
"When you cut 1,000 jobs, 2,000 people are effected," says Norton. To illustrate the ripple effect, he cited JLJ Trucking Company. They were a local business that employed around 200 people until they closed due to a lack of business. Norton's own store, Family Pharmacy has also felt the impact. Sales are down on a whole and people are tending to buy more non-prescription and off-brand products.
Old Fort currently has a population of around 900 people. Norton estimates about 85% of the Ethan Allen plant's remaining workforce are Old Fort area residents. He grows visibly worried at the thought of the plant closing entirely.
Signs like these are dotted along Highway 70, which passes through the town.