What's next for Albany after Cooper's announcement - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

What's next for Albany after Cooper's announcement

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

December 18, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Manufacturing jobs make up 10 percent of Albany's workforce, but that took a big hit with Cooper Tire's announcement Wednesday.

The national employment landscape has changed drastically over the years. Fifty years ago, one third of American workers were in factories. Now only a tenth of them are. So where will laid off Cooper employees turn for work and what type of industry does Albany need to attract to stay competitive in the job market?

Albany Mayor Dr. Willie Adams may have said it best Thursday, when he said we certainly don't want to just mourn the loss of Cooper's jobs, but we should remain positive and look at how Cooper Tire's employees can be retrained or how their skills may match up in other available jobs. Community leaders however say Albany's got to work on attracting a more diverse business sector.

Cooper Tire's announcement to close its Albany plant has employees wondering where they'll turn for work in a shrinking job market. The Department of Labor will meet with plant officials tomorrow to set up the transition center to help.

"We'll also be doing some skills assessment through our WIA staff and we're going to be talking about retraining also helping them with their resumes job referrals and the things that will get them back into a job market," said Sheilah Holland, Georgia Department of Labor.

It's a job market that Albany leaders say must change. Georgia is the fourth fastest growing state, and while Atlanta has seen the lions share of the growth Albany leaders say they can't settle for the leftovers.

"We have to better our infrastructure in anticipation we may benefit from some type of companies moving from some other states into the state of Georgia," said Albany mayor, Dr. Willie Adams.

While manufacturers like P&G and Miller have been loyal business partners Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard says Dougherty County has to better diversify its workforce.

"You've got to have different sectors and those different sectors give you a broader base and you have less of your eggs in one basket," said Jeff Sinyard, Dougherty County Commission Chairman.

As the community begins to look for a replacement for Cooper he says south Georgia needs to draw in a distributor, a logistics operation, or service industries like Senior Life Services who's now hiring an additional 300 employees. They say they need to learn from the past and not repeat patterns that could harm the region.

"If you recruit another manufacturing company, the trend seems to be after 18 years there's kind of a rotation there so, the workforce that goes into those type of jobs I think we're just going to have to face the reality that those jobs are just kind of volatile," said Adams.

It's why the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Commission are focusing efforts on their Business Retention and Assistance Program and calling on local business to see how the community can help them grow or expand their business and retain jobs in the community.

Albany Mayor Dr. Willie Adams said he encourages the new administration not to offer tax breaks for companies that may ship jobs overseas because of cheaper labor costs.

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