ERWIN, TN (WJHL)- A town is in recovery mode after losing hundreds of jobs and a major industry. CSX shut down its Erwin railyard, cutting almost 300 jobs in October 2015.
Back in 2015 we talked with several employees shocked at the closure, predicting their lives were going to dramatically change because of it.
More than a year later, we talked with former Erwin CSX employee Michael Allen. He said he couldn’t find a job until August of 2016 when he decided to work at CSX in West Virginia.
“Erwin is where I was born and raised and it’s a big change you know to have to step out and it’s hard on me and hard on my family,” Allen said.
We caught up with Allen on over the phone in his Kentucky apartment where he lives during the week.
“It was definitely life-changing,” Allen said.
With his whole family still in Erwin, he commutes four hours home and four hours back every weekend.
“It’s hard being away from your family all week long but I always say, me and my wife we always tell each other that things could always be worse,” Allen said.
Back in 2015, not only was Allen uncertain about his future, he was concerned for the future of his hometown.
“This town was built by the railroad, and this town may go down with the railroad,” Allen told us back in 2015.
But Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley said they are making sure that doesn’t happen.
“We are trying to attract new businesses, we’re trying to start a new movement for tourism in town, as well as a draw for retail,” Hensley said.
She said since the closure, about ten small businesses have opened up downtown, and she hopes that trend continues.
“Since then in October 2015 our unemployment rate was 7.3 percent, October 2016 it was 6.6 percent so we can see that we’re in the recovery mode right now,” Hensley said.
According to Hensley, since 2015 the town has received two grants, one that will help identify and market the available properties in Erwin. The other will demolish the old Morgan Insulation building in Erwin and make it site ready for new development.
As for Allen, he said he is also trying to keep moving forward, looking at the bright side.
“I still think the Lord every day that he has blessed me with a good job it’s just kind of inconvenient for me but my inconvenience also is a blessing,” Allen said.
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