ERWIN, TN (WJHL)-Erwin and Unicoi County officials are trying to figure out what’s next after CSX announced Thursday that it is reducing operations at its Erwin Terminal, impacting 300 workers.
Elsie Lonon said she was, “devastated,” when she found out many workers would be furloughed. Her husband, who has worked at the CSX Erwin Terminal for 10 years, was laid off in early October.
“We’re in the process of building a house, about four weeks from moving in,” but now Lonon said those plans might be up in the air. “Now we might be turning around and selling it as fast as I guess, we get it built. I don’t know,” she said.
Meanwhile, several Erwin and Unicoi County officials had an impromptu meeting on the steps of the Unicoi County Courthouse Thursday afternoon. “This is an epic blow,” Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch said about the impact the reduction will have on the local economy and residents.
But already, they are looking ahead, trying to figure out how to help furloughed employees and the county recover from the loss.
“Beginning today we’ve already started trying to recruit some businesses, but our problem now is space,” Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley said. “With the vacant property that’s going to become available now with the railroad, like I say, if we can obtain some of that property, it’s going to be a big boost to our economic development.”
Unicoi County Mayor Lynch has already contacted CSX officials about that possibility. “In fact I had asked them to please send their real estate people in and we’ll talk about any acquisition we can get on any of the property.”
Right now though, the main priority is helping the employees at the Erwin terminal get back to work. “I think the number one thing we need to do is make sure they have every resource available to them,” said Tish Oldham, Executive Director of the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County.
Officials plan to continue their discussions at the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County quarterly meeting on Friday morning.