UNICOI COUNTY, TN (WJHL)- One of Unicoi County’s largest employers formally announced its plans on Thursday to cut dozens of jobs from the company. The devastating news comes less than six months after a string of layoffs impacted hundreds of people in a county hard hit with job losses.
Regal Beloit Corporation confirmed it is relocating operations from its Morrill Motors plant in Erwin by the end of the year as part of a restructuring process.
The consolidation plan means 108 employees, or nearly half of those employed at the Erwin facility, will soon be out of work. The news is another big punch to the county’s economic outlook as just five months ago nearly 300 CSX employees learned they were out of a job.
Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch said, “The fact is these people depend on these jobs and a lot of them work there and their spouse works there as a second job.”
That’s the case for Regal Beloit employee, Manuel Jones, and his family.
Jones said he and his wife both work at the facility.
“If you take two incomes out of a family, you have nothing,” Jones said.
Lynch said he hopes employees won’t let this loss keep them down.
“I hope their spirit won’t be broken by this … this is something that happens, every so often,” he said.
Jones said the news was a bit of a shock as it was delivered to employees at a meeting on Wednesday.
“It’s sad and it’s not just here but everywhere else people are losing their jobs and it’s all over our country,” he said.
“It’s pitiful. People are just wanting to make a living and survive,” Jones said.
Lynch added, “It’s going to be a hard void to fill and, unfortunately, some of the folks may have to go out of town to find jobs.”
Despite this loss, Lynch said he feels the community will persevere.
“Unicoi County people are strong and the community showed during the CSX problem that they can come together,” Lynch said.
Unicoi County’s Economic Development Board said they are doubling their efforts in attracting new jobs.
“We’re continuing to move forward, just like we have, but, of course, any time that you have a job loss you’re going to step up all the efforts that you’re making in order to attract new jobs,” Executive Director for Unicoi County’s Economic Development Board Patricia Oldham said. “We also try to focus on our existing employers and this is exactly why.”
Jones said regardless of county efforts, it’s going to be a difficult transition for longtime employees.
“I’ve been working there for 14 years,” he said. “That’s a long time to give somebody and have to start all over again but you just have to take things as they go.”
“We are seeing is that a lot of different companies are looking at their options in other places and many of our local employers also still have facilities in China and Mexico,” Oldham said. “So, we realize that we are competing internationally every day here on Main Street in Unicoi County.”
News Channel 11 spoke with a Paul Goldman, a spokesman for Regal Beloit, Thursday afternoon.
Goldman said that while he cannot confirm that these jobs will be transferred out of the country that’s not out of the question.
Jones said he believes it’s harder to find a job now than it once was.
“In the good ole days, if something happened to your job you could go out and get another job. But in the life we live in now, there aren’t many jobs left and I don’t know what the people are going to do,” Jones said.
The Northeast Tennessee Workforce Development Board has a career center known as the American Job Center that will be aiding the unemployed find jobs.
The Alliance For Business And Training has been managing the current operations from an ETSU office space in Unicoi County since November but they’ve announced that they will be moving their operations to the Mountain Commerce Bank building, located at 201 South Main Ave., in downtown Erwin in order to expand their operations and help more people affected by job layoffs.
The organization, in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Labor And Workforce Development, hopes to have the center open no later than March 18.
For more information, you can visit the center’s website at unicoijobcenter.org or call 423-735-5773.
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