More business headed south
July 16, 2001
The economic climate in Clarke County will lose a bit more luster in September when 200 people lose their jobs with the closing of Nazareth/Century Mills' textile operations at the Quitman Knitting Mill.
It was no surprise to learn that the work would be moving to Central America manufacturing costs in Honduras are a mere fraction of what they are in the U.S., And, the truth is the decision to close Quitman Knitting Mill was no surprise either, having been rumored in the area for several months.
Rusty McMillan, executive director of the Mid-Mississippi Development District, put the best face on the loss by saying the company "defied gravity" for as long as it could. The company produces knit apparel products for all age groups and genders. Its top customers include JCPenney, Sears, Wal-Mart and Kids-R-Us.
McMillan works with economic development projects in six East Mississippi counties and noted that in the last eight years 21 garment manufacturing plants in his area have either closed or downsized due to enormous pricing pressure.
Thus, the bad news continues for workers in the relatively low-wage, low-skill garment manufacturing industry.
What will these 200 workers do now that their jobs have flown south?
How equipped is Mississippi to quickly retrain thee workers for other positions elsewhere?
The company said the Quitman shutdown will improve its overall competitiveness. That doesn't mean much to a long-time worker who now is faced with the hard prospect of finding another job with less than optimal skills.
The good news is that an administrative staff and warehouse employees, about 30 people total, will be retained in Quitman to coordinate the new sourcing operation.
But this latest move south is further confirmation as if any were needed that low-wage, low-skill manufacturing jobs can not exist in the U.S. in a global economy.