Burlington workers focus of job fair
HIS LAST WEEK AT BURLINGTON Raynard Edwards of Pachuta signs up Tuesday with Anita Caldwell of Sanderson Plumbing Products in Butler, Ala., at the Clarke County Job Fair. Thirty-two employers attended the fair and talked to about 750 prospects throughout the course of the day. Photo by Carisa McCain / The Meridian Star
By Chris Allen Baker / staff writer
April 24, 2002
QUITMAN It was a bittersweet Tuesday for Vickie and Dennis Whigham, who found themselves among more than 750 people looking for work at a job fair in the National Guard Armory.
The Whighams once thought they had secure jobs at Burlington Industries' textile plant in Stonewall. But the place where they worked for a combined 29 years is closing, leaving them and about 850 others jobless.
Companies from Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi attended the day-long event, hoping to find workers for such positions as engineers, chemists, custodians and office workers.
Mississippi officials organized the job fair in response to the closing of the Stonewall plant. Burlington announced in January it would close the plant, citing foreign competition and a weak economy.
Delores Sides, director of corporate communications at Burlington's Greensboro, N.C., headquarters, said the Stonewall plant is scheduled to cease operations by April 30.
Only a handful of workers remained at the plant Tuesday; workers have been dismissed in phases since the announcement. A skeleton administration crew will remain at the plant until May or June.
Joe Buckner, a member of the governor's staff who helped organize the job fair, said that businesses made about 100 job offers by 2 p.m. two hours before the fair was set to end.
By the 4 p.m. closing time, about 750 job seekers had completed applications and distributed resumes to the 24 prospective employers who manned display booths for their companies.
Jeffrey Martin, 42, a production supervisor from Meridian who had 24 1/2 years at the Burlington plant, said he remained optimistic as he filled out one of several applications.
Dennis Hardaway, 45, who worked in Burlington's weaving department for 26 years, filled out applications with his wife at his side.
After spending two hours at the fair, Dennis Whigham went home for lunch when he received a call with a job offer from La-Z-Boy in Newton. He had applied at La-Z-Boy in February.