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Textile maker lays off nearly 2,500…

The shame and outsourcing of Bush’s Economy. North Carolina used to have a booming textile industry, but it’s been decimated as factories have closed or moved their production facilities overseas for the even-cheaper labor (NC is a right-to-work state). (

Bedding and bath textile maker WestPoint Stevens Inc. said Monday it will cut 2,465 jobs and close plants in four states because of the Jan. 1 end of worldwide quotas limiting cheap imports. The West Point, Ga.-based maker of brands including Martex, Stevens and Lady Pepperell will close plants in Burlington, Clemson, S.C.; Middletown, Ind. and Drakes Branch, Va.

About 560 will lose their jobs in Burlington, 1,345 in Clemson, 450 in Drakes Branch, and 110 in Middletown. The plants are expected to close by late March or early April, the company said.

The closings and layoffs “are directly related to the removal of textile quotas from low-wage countries,” the company said in a statement. Much of the work will be shifted overseas.

We must be flexible in maintaining the most profitable balance between our domestic manufacturing and goods sourced from overseas. This becomes more critical with quotas removed,” WestPoint Stevens President and Chief Executive M.L. “Chip” Fontenot said.

The company, which was founded almost 200 years ago, also closed its Roanoke Rapids, N.C., towel-making complex, the South’s first major unionized textile mill and the inspiration for the award-winning 1979 film “Norma Rae,” which starred Sally Field.

Thankfully, much of NC has moved to a more technical, research and science-based economy, it is still very much an agricultural and textile state at heart. A lot of the workforce losing jobs are in desperate need of retraining for the hi-tech jobs that are out there. It’s a permanent shift.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding