Rowan people ready to work

  • Posted: Monday, November 11, 2013 10:19 p.m.

Gildan will probably attract a big crowd for its job fair today from 2 to 7 p.m. at the company’s plant at 2121 Heilig Road. With more than 6,000 Rowan residents counted by the state as unemployed — and many more underemployed — competition will be stiff.

An ad for the event in the Post’s classified section lists the positions to be filled: spinning operators, carding operators, drawing operators, roving operators and material handlers. Other recent listings for Gildan show the company is also looking for a shift manager and an electronics tech in Salisbury.

How sweet it is to have new jobs to fill in Rowan County and North Carolina. The state has lost 42 percent of its manufacturing jobs since 2000; Rowan has lost at least that much or more. Though many of those jobs will never come back, some manufacturers are “reshoring” jobs as the advantages of foreign production shrink. Michael Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State University, has said that “due to rising wages of foreign workers and concerns about quality control, the cost advantage of Asian textile factories over U.S. factories has narrowed considerably in the last five years.” Shipping costs and import tariffs also favor domestic production.

Add Walmart’s pledge to buy $50 billion more U.S.-made goods over the next decade, and things are looking up for U.S. manufacturers.

Gildan — a leading supplier of branded basic apparel such as T-shirts, fleece, sport shirts, socks and underwear — is expanding production offshore and in the U.S. What matters here are its plans to invest $250 million in new yarn-spinning plants in Davie and Rowan by mid-2015. The wave of hiring going on now is for the company’s first Rowan facility, the former PGT plant on Heilig Road. As of early October, 30 people had been hired and the company said it expected to bring in 170 more in the next six months. 

In the not-too-distant future, Gildan expects to hire 184 more people to work in a 500,000-square-foot structure the manufacturer is building near the first plant, on property donated by Rowan County.

The company will be using the latest technology, underscoring the need for workers to stay in step with the changing workplace. Even assembly and production work require the ability to navigate through computer programs. They also require teamwork, interpersonal skills and a strong work ethic. If Rowan County wants more jobs, its residents need to keep up their skills and be ready to work hard. The way to get a good paycheck is to earn it.

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