Walker County reacts to Blue Bird closing, 350 losing jobs
By Paul Shahen
LAFAYETTE, WALKER COUNTY, GA (WRCB) - Walker County is still in shock. Yesterday residents learned Blue Bird will close in late August, leaving 350 people out of work.
It is the talk of the town. It's the families, the small stores, and the county as a whole, that are all left wondering about the future.
"It's really a lot like losing a spouse or family member. A father a mother, it's part of your family when you work for a company for a longtime," says Judy Holcomb of Georgia's Department of Labor.
In Walker County, nobody knows that more than the blue collar workers at Blue Bird. 350 workers were told they have two months to find another job.
For a small county with an unemployment rate already at 9 percent, the Chamber of Commerce says it's not just the workers who will take a hit.
Chamber President Stephanie Snodgrass says, "to the county, the morale is definitely down. They are a very large employer for us. It also means it's hurting the families, the employees and the smaller businesses around them."
Locally-owned businesses like the small grocery and gas store, just a few hundred yards from the soon to be extinct Blue Bird plant.
Bradley Stewart of SNR Groceries says, "we should be alright. We make a lot on lottery, but it's going to hurt us a lot."
Holcomb says she knows the small shops are the lifeline of the community, but to keep them alive, the economic void Blue Bird will leave behind must be filled.
"We will work as hard as we can. Of course the joint development will help to bring in prospects, says Holcomb. "So we do have several prospects that are interested."
At the very least it's a sign of hope, for a community fighting for all they have. And they're not alone. Several organizations like the Department of Labor are ready to step in a offer all they can.
Holcomb says, "We bring a lot of people together for this company to let the people know what kind of help they can expect."