Clarke County officials deal with record unemployment
WORKFORCE INVESTMENT NETWORK Dick Younger, acting manager of the Twin Districts WIN Center in Quitman, posts job listings on a bulletin board. The center opened in April to help Clarke County residents find new jobs after a series of manufacturing plants closed. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Sept. 22, 2002
Lionel McLaughlin, 23, of Stonewall, lost his job when A&B Components in Shubuta shut its doors. It wasn't long before he had to give up his car and his apartment.
A&B was the first of several industries that left Clarke County within an 18-month period giving it the highest unemployment rate in the state.
McLaughlin is one of about 2,000 people who lost jobs in Clarke County due to industrial closings that began in November 2000. The final straw was Burlington Industries, the county's largest employer, which had 800 employees when it closed in March.
McLaughlin was out of work for three months. He said he drew unemployment and looked for work during that time, eventually finding a part-time job working two days a week at the hospital in Quitman.
Things are looking up for McLaughlin now. He still lives with his parents, but he has managed to buy another car and is working full-time again.
The Twin Districts WIN Transition Center in Quitman helped him find a job as a press operator making air vents at Solar Group Inc. in Enterprise.
Quitman's WIN Center
The Mississippi Employment Security Commission opened the Twin Districts WIN Center in Quitman in April to offer employment and training services to employers and job-seekers.
WIN stands for Workforce Investment Network.
Dick Younger of the DeSoto community is the center's acting manager and the former human resources manager of Nazareth/Century Mills Inc. a Quitman industry that closed last September, laying off about 200 employees.
The center helps people get training for new jobs through federal Trade Adjustment Assistance programs. Most of the training takes place at area community colleges.
Workshops began this past week at the center to teach people skills they need to find a new job, like how to write resumes and fill out job applications properly.
We're all in this
Younger said the staff at the WIN Center sees 25 to 30 people a day, but he would like to see more.
He said few people have attended the workshops, but he is hopeful those numbers will pick up as well.
Algene McQuarters, local office manager for WIN Job Centers in Clarke, Kemper and Lauderdale counties, said the Quitman site has helped 185 people in getting job training. He said about 100 people have found employment through the center since it opened.
He said Clarke County's plight affects surrounding areas, even though the unemployment rate in nearby counties has remained steadier.
Local, state, and federal sources are helping, but right now, as Paul Mosley, president of the Clarke County Board of Supervisors put it: "It can't get much worse."
A federal grant of $3.29 million from the U.S. Department of Labor for new training, education and hiring services was announced in August to help out-of-work employees in Clarke, Lauderdale, Jasper and Wayne counties.
The grant will be administered by the Mississippi Development Authority, local work force investment boards, elected officials, business and education leaders, and Jones Junior College.
Clarke County's board of supervisors received a $100,000 grant from the state in May to develop a strategic long-range plan to overcome the impact of the plant closings. The grant is part of the Workforce Investment Act program administered by the Mississippi Development Authority's Employment Training Division.
Mosley said the supervisors' strategic planning committee is working with representatives from the chamber of commerce, Clarke County Planning and Development, the Montgomery Institute and the East Mississippi Electric Power Association to decide what types of industries they can attract to the area.
Two companies have started production in Clarke County recently.
USA Fabrics, based in Florence, Ala., moved into the Nazareth/Century Mills plant in May and hired about 50 people. Duke Energy Co., based in Charlotte, N.C., built a power producing plant in the industrial park in Enterprise this year and hired 10 to 15 people.