June 27, 2006
Hundreds of former textile workers spent the day looking for a new career. All are losing their jobs at Avondale Mills, in part because of last year's deadly train wreck.
Today the first day of a company sponsored job fair for employees.
Many stopped by the help desk to get some last minute resume and job hunting advice...that's one of the biggest worries for people who have spent a good part of their lives at the mill.
Wayne Wells is eager to get a new job.
"I was sitting at the house pacing...and I figured I can pace here as well as I can pace there, so I came early and I'm waiting for the doors to open," he told News 12 early Tuesday.
Wayne spent about a decade with Avondale Mills, and the news that it was closing came as a shock.
"I was called into my boss's office...he said 'Your time has come'," Wayne recalls.
And now for Wayne and hundreds of others it's time to look for work for the first time in years.
"I'm very nervous," said Glenda Swygert. "31 years out of the job market...it's kind of scary."
"I'm getting a little too old to be starting over again...but I guess I don't have any choice in that," Steve Perry said.
Manufacturing is the second largest industry in Aiken County. Twenty percent of that labor force is out of work. That means schools and county projects lose a million and a half tax dollars, according to administrator Clay Killian.
"The county was built around the mills," Killian said. "It will take a while to fully recover from it."
He says the career fair is a good start.
"We're going to be talking to everyone that walks by, and we're going to do everything we can to get them here," said employer Rusty Parkhill.
"Hopefully they'll sign up for my class!" laughed employer Connie Waterhouse.
Many need to find a good fit with one of the 55 employers at the fair soon.
"You got to plan your next shopping trip to the grocery store," said Steve. "You don't know how many paychecks you got coming up now."
"Financially we're not in trouble yet...but you know that's coming," Wayne said.
For the people worried about their money, One Stop, the federal organization helping with the fair, was handing out guidebooks today on how to survive a layoff.
If you missed the fair today, there are still two days left.
The Avondale Mills career fair is tomorrow from 1 to 5 pm, and Thursday from 1 to 6pm at the Christian Heritage Church off Ascauga Lake Road in Graniteville.