Kenny Larsen has been idled from his job as a machinist at Arcade Marketing because of a lack of work for the company.
The recent announcement, though, that Arcade is cutting 150 jobs and shutting down part of its Chattanooga plant has the Catoosa County resident concerned he won’t be recalled.
“I’m not sure if I’m going to be laid off or not,” Mr. Larsen, 28, said Friday. “But with the economy the way it is, I’m unsure of where I’ll be.”
Mr. Larsen, who is married with three small children, is among nearly 800 North Georgia and Southeast Tennessee workers without work now or soon because of plant closings announced in recent days.
HELP WITH THE HUNT
The Georgia Department of Labor provides a wide range of career services, and not just beyond unemployment compensation. In addition to basic job searches, the department offers occupational/skills training, on-the-job training and child-care help and meals in some cases. For more information visit www.dol.state.ga.us.
The closing of Mohawk Industries in Fort Oglethorpe will leave more than 200 people unemployed at the end of November; Dade County, Ga.’s largest employer, Shaw Industries’ Trenton Spinning Mills will close, cutting 440 jobs. And Tecumseh Power Co., in Sequatchie County, Tenn., will layoff about 180 workers and close its small engine plant,, the biggest employer in that rural county.
According to state labor statistics, Northwest Georgia has taken the hardest hit in recent job losses. In September, the percentage of laid-off workers filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance rose by 76.3 percent over the same period in 2007.
“It’s just a scary economic time for everyone,” Catoosa Chamber of Commerce director Martha Eaker said. “I think it’s going to get better, but not by tomorrow.”
On Friday, Mr. Larsen visited the Northwest Career Center branch office of the Georgia Department of Labor in Fort Oglethorpe, preparing for the likelihood of unemployment. He said he should know within two weeks whether he has a job to go back to.
The Georgia resident may be surprised at the level of services he will find, said Jerry Garland, the Department of Labor’s District 2 director. His area includes the Fort Oglethorpe office, said.
Labor has already launched rapid response teams to set up transition centers on the job site and begin to deliver services, Mr. Garland said.
“We ask the employer to survey employees on their needs and we tailor our services to that,” he said. “We also include our partners, such as technical schools and representatives from colleges and the state Division of Family and Children Services.”
The transition centers provide assistance with paperwork for unemployment payments, guidance to find funds for retraining, labor market information, and workshops in résumé writing, interviewing skills, applications and computer skills.
“We try to do a lot of this on-site,” Mr. Garland said. “Imagine 400 people from Shaw in this office at once, trying to fill out paperwork.”
Preliminary meetings at Mohawk are scheduled for Oct. 21 and 22, said Al Abernathy, Fort Oglethorpe office manager.
Shaw just announced its closing Thursday, but a rapid response team is already working with the employer, Mr. Abernathy said. Federal law requires employers to notify employees of pending layoffs at least 60 days in advance, Mr. Abernathy said.
To meet the demand for services, Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond announced this week that all offices will go to a 10-hour workday to stagger shifts and extend office hours so more people can access services.
“It’s revenue neutral, good for employee morale and gives unemployed people more time to get help,” Mr. Garland said.
Meanwhile, the plant closings have undercut confidence boosted by the announcement of the $1 billion Volkswagen plant coming to Chattanooga, community members said.
“It’s getting something good and then that’s followed by something bad,” said Bonnie Wagner, owner of Ringgold Cycles.
Ms. Wagner said her business, which sells motorcycles, golf carts and other all-terrain type vehicles, surged after the announcement of the VW plant. She’s not sure what will happen now.
Fort Oglethorpe Council member Louis Hamm said the city will have to step up efforts to recruit new employers, possibly with the Mohawk site as an asset to lure a business looking for an existing buildings. The city cannot rest on the coming of Volkswagen, he said.
“Everything’s gone haywire,” he said. “I don’t look for the economy to bounce back real strong for at least a year or more.”