Shaw to add jobs, Dalton economy needs others to expand - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Shaw to add jobs, Dalton economy needs others to expand

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In Georgia there are signs of improvement as the unemployment rate drops again. The Department of Labor announced the new figure for unemployment at 8.7 percent, down from 8.8 percent in July.

Though more people are heading back work in the Peach State, more than 400,000 remain unemployed. In fact, Georgia's unemployment rate ranks as one of the highest in the country. It's 46th out of 51 states, including Washington D.C. The national unemployment rate stands at 7.3-percent.

It's no surprise any job announcement comes as welcome news to Georgia. Wednesday Shaw Industries announced it's investing $100 million for an expansion project that will bring about 175 jobs to Dalton.

Shaw currently employs 23,000 people and now they're adding onto that. Local officials say the expansion will push Whitfield County in the right direction and hopefully attract other manufacturers to add jobs, too.

Shaw Plant 34 in Whitfield County will expand by more than 535,000 square feet. Construction begins this fall. It's where the majority of the new jobs will be, with more than a hundred positions like clerks, lift drivers, and truck drivers. That's the same types of distribution jobs that suffered layoffs during the recession that hit the "Carpet Capital of the World" especially hard.

"It's great to be on this side of things and have the economy coming back," Shaw Human Resources Director of Manufacturing & Distribution Al Scruggs said.

Shaw says demand for carpet is picking back up. They're also hiring about 65 machine operators to use new high-tech equipment at their fibers plant. They'll start hiring next month, but it will not be all at once.

"We have to shift a few people around while we move things around to build and so it'll be a few at a time but it will be shortly," Scruggs said.

Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson says while Shaw's expansion is a step in the right direction, the local economy still has a long road ahead, partly because new manufacturing technology requires less manpower.

"We'll have higher capital for these investments but we'll also have less jobs. So as we go forward, even with the success we should have with companies expanding, and new companies to our region, we will not see our employment drastically go down," Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson said.

Since 2008, Whitfield County lost between 16,000 to 18,000 jobs. Many people found work out of the county, but 4,000 are still looking. 1,800 jobs have been added. Anderson says several companies will fill a combined 3,000 jobs over the next few years.

"Nobody knew this downturn was going to be over four years, not only long in length, but it was very deep," Anderson said.

That said, the Chamber says it's proud to be a carpet-based economy, because manufacturing jobs pay about 18-percent higher than other types of jobs. Though new technology means fewer jobs, the positions that are created, also require a higher skill set, and therefore, pay more.

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