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Fitzgerald leaders say economy will rebound

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September 6, 2007

Fitzgerald - - City leaders in Fitzgerald respond to the shocking announcement that the area's largest employer is shutting down a production plant. 550 workers at Shaw Industries will lose their jobs. Shaw is the world's largest carpet maker and its business is suffering.

Since 1983, Shaw Industries has been a fixture in Fitzgerald. The flooring manufacturer has three plants there. Thursday, company managers announced one of those plants is closing primarily because of a slowdown in the housing market which trickles down to Shaw bottom line as a carpet manufacturer.

"In recent years, we are seeing a change in consumer preferences in our product mix in carpeting," says Julius Shaw of Shaw Industries.

The name Shaw may not be as familiar to you as some of the materials they produce. Everything from stain and soil repellent carpets, to the Kathy Ireland Collection, Shaw is known for its queen carpets, American Home Collections, and their residential and commercial specialized collections.

"Obviously we're saddened to hear this," says Bruce Shepard, Fitzgerald's Chamber of Commerce Chairman.

In May, the Delphi battery plant in Fitzgerald closed leaving more than 300 people jobless. Add the 550 people affected by Shaw's closing and you get a huge chunk of the city's workforce unemployed.

"I think it does take a toll on the local economy," Shepard adds.

He says community leaders are actively pursuing another major industry to take over the Delphi plant. As for Shaw closing one of it's plant, he hopes its only a result of the current economy which could turn around and hopefully bring back this plant that spins nylon for carpet.

"If it is a temporary thing, we'll certainly work with them to do anything we can to try to get the plant back open and if it doesn't happen we'll certainly work towards finding other candidates to come in to utilize that facility to provide services in our community and hopefully bring jobs."

Shaw managers are keeping their employees in mind.

"Our plan is to work with our employees to place as many of the employees as we can into either the Fitzgerald plants or if they're able to make the move in Tifton," Shaw says.

Currently there are only 30 openings in the other South Georgia Shaw plants. 

About 400 people work in the other two Shaw plants in Fitzgerald. Last year, Shaw closed one of two plants in Tifton. 600 people currently work at the plant that still operates there.

The Fitzgerald plant will close in two months.

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