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Manufacturing jobs fade away around Augusta

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When Avondale Mills shut down in 2006, thousands of workers were forced to look for new employment.

Jenny Dunn went back to school after losing her Avondale Mills job. She now has a job with the Aiken County government.   RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF
Jenny Dunn went back to school after losing her Avondale Mills job. She now has a job with the Aiken County government.

For Jenny Dunn, a 17-year veteran of the mill's Gregg Plant in Graniteville, the closure meant a search for a new direction -- and a new career.

It also meant she joined a large group of people who could no longer count on making a living in the manufacturing sector -- particularly in Aiken County.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, in 1990 the manufacturing industry accounted for more than one-fourth of the jobs -- 27.3 percent -- in Aiken County for people 16 and older, by far its largest employer. By 2008, the percentage had tumbled by nearly half, surpassed by education, health and social services.

Today, Dunn, 54, works in Aiken County government as a senior deputy clerk for the Registrar of Mesne Conveyance, which processes public information about mortgages, deeds and tax liens.

After being laid off, Dunn took advantage of worker retraining opportunities to enroll at Aiken Technical College and graduated with an associate's degree in business technology, majoring in management and marketing.

"I had just put two daughters through college. Working with them and all, my brain still was working," Dunn said jokingly. "I am the type of person that I am going to do it, no matter what."

Manufacturing employment has also dropped in Richmond and Columbia counties over the past 28 years. By 2008, manufacturing was no longer one of the top three industries in Richmond County, replaced by arts, entertainment, recreation and accommodations and food services.

In Columbia County, manufacturing had dropped to 11.9 percent of employment in 2008, down from 15.7 percent in 1990.

Rene Chandler, the manager of the One Stop Plus Center in Aiken County, said those numbers don't surprise her. The center, which opened in 2006, helps displaced workers.

"It's a huge program and because the manufacturing field is not very prominent at all anymore, we direct those people into a new occupation, a lot being the health industry," she said.

Dunn said she is now more confident about her ability to adapt to the changing job market.

"I know that if I lost my job tomorrow, I have my education that I could use to turn around and get another job," she said.

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deekster 02/28/10 - 08:59 am
Government Jobs or

Government Jobs or Entertainment/Services? Will Augusta "morph" to be Washington DC or Las Vegas? I think it will "morph" to become a "mirror populace of DC" and a "job market of LV.

humbleopinion 02/28/10 - 10:19 am
Why haven't we heard from

Why haven't we heard from Justus4 with his "impeccable observations" that the truth is manufacturers are pulling out of the Aiken / Augusta area because of the large number of minority "workers" living in the area. There is no doubt that American manufacturers are nothing but racists and are destroying their own companies merely to deny employment opportunities to Americans of color.

jack 02/28/10 - 03:47 pm
Humbleopinion, do you mean

Humbleopinion, do you mean the "AWM" (All White Manufaturers) who are discriminating against people of color by closing their doors?

stillamazed 03/01/10 - 08:50 am
It's not just in this area

It's not just in this area it's everywhere. Companies continue to resource out overseas. American companies who reep the benefits of being an American company but care nothing about the American workers, it's all about the almighty dollar folks, as usual.

themaninthemirror 03/01/10 - 09:28 am
Sooner or later all these

Sooner or later all these outsourced products will have to be sold in the countries in which they are produced, because no one in the U.S. will have enough money to buy them anymore.

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