Layoffs or transfers? Yarn plant closing frays N. GA economy - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Layoffs or transfers? Either way, yarn plant closing frays North Georgia economy further

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CHATSWORTH, MURRAY COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -- Riz Muhammad figured he would be more than covered, if he opened a convenience store on Highway 76 in Chatsworth.

The carpet factories were wall-to-wall.

Shaw Industries' Plant 82 is barely a block from his Smoke Shop. It's been spinning yarn for short-staple fiber carpeting since 1967. Its workforce tops 300 people.

"They (workers) come in here quite a bit for beer and cigarettes," he says.

So many, that Plant 82 accounts for more than a third of his yearly sales. So when he heard that Shaw will close '82' within sixty days "It'll slow down business a lot," he says. "When Mohawk closed, it hurt a lot."

"It's a matter of customer preference," Shaw's Human Resources Director Al Scruggs tells Eyewitness News. "More prefer filament, rather than spun yarn."

"These are not incredibly high-paying jobs, but they are manufacturing jobs," Chatsworth Mayor Tyson Haynes says. "These are employees that contribute about, $4 million a year to our economy."

Haynes, and the Chamber of Commerce guess-timate than more than two-thirds of Shaw-82's workers earn less than $30,000 annually.

The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires industrial employers to give sixty days notice of a plant closing. Haynes received Shaw's notice via overnight mail Tuesday.

Practically speaking, it guarantees Plant 82's workers will receive pay and benefits for another 60 days. The plant could close much sooner.

But many may not be without a paycheck for long. Or at all.

"We don't right now, but we're confident that by the time we go through the shutdown process, we'll have enough jobs for the people who want to stay with us," Scruggs says.

He bases that on the number of positions open at Shaw plants in Calhoun, Whitfield and Catoosa counties.

"We've been saving some jobs in the area, through attrition, for about the last five or six weeks," Scruggs says.

Muhammad is skeptical.

"I talked to two of my regulars; they're disappointed," he says. "They don't know what they're gonna do."

Mayor Haynes doesn't either. An empty factory yields lower property taxes. Homebuilding hasn't rebounded, yet.

"I do not believe carpet is coming back," the Mayor says. "It means that we have really got to work to diversify and get some kind of industry. we are doing that, we are having companies have come and visited us."

So far, those wall-to-wall pitches haven't caught anything. Beyond the payroll, Haynes worries about the charities and good works to which Shaw has contributed.

Scruggs offers him some certainty on that score.

"We believe in being a good neighbor," Scruggs says. "They've been good to us; we're gonna continue to be good to them."

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