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On Your Side: Millen gutted by more layoffs

News 12 at 6 O'Clock, September 15, 2009

MILLEN -- Built as the railroad''s central point between Augusta, Savannah, and Macon, Millen grew up and thrived as a small town.

"We were on the opposite side, we were one of the tops in the state of Georgia of being able to furnish people jobs," said Millen Mayor King Rocker.

The industrial strip of Millen once housed five plants. The last of the plants, Cavalier Homes, will shut down operations in October. 104 workers will lose their jobs. Only a few office personnel and other workers are left.

Jenkins County already has the highest unemployment in the state.

"(The jobs are) just gone," added Rocker. "People have scattered out and found what they could."

It is the dark side of this economy, but Mayor Rocker points to other issues. He says the Jenkins County Development Authority offered tax breaks and other incentives to keep the plant here. A number of employees familiar with Cavalier Homes say another private group offered to buy it for 1.5 million dollars.

Mayor Rocker says Cavalier Homes CEO Bobby Tesney refused to deal, and the mobile home manufacturer merged with Southern Energy Homes.

"It's just a corporate issue. They were bound and determined to close it, they didn't care who they hurt."

When reached by phone recently, Tesney had no comment on what the closing means for workers. Southern Energy is owned by multi-billionare Warren Buffett. The mayor and others believe the deal was made to keep competition away.

But it keeps jobs away too -- and people may have to go across the tracks to find work.

During the annual town meeting on October 1 there will be a job fair. Employers, the Georgia Department of Labor, and colleges will be on hand to talk about workforce development. Some workers at the plant are expected to attend.

If you'd like to be a part of it, the job fair/meeting will be at the Jenkins County AG Building. Vendors include Georgia Southern University, Southeastern Technical College, Georgia Power, Queensborough National Bank & Trust, One Stop - ECGC, the Georgia Department of Labor, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

For more information, call the resource center at 478-982-8004.


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