Hanesbrands employees could get extended benefits

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypostCHINA GROVE ó The 185 employees of Hanesbrands Inc. who will lose their jobs next month may get local, state and federal assistance.
And town officials will face losing one of the town’s biggest utility customers and taxpayers.
A Rapid Response team from the Salisbury office of the N.C. Employment Security Commission will visit the Thom Street plant Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with employees.
The Winston-Salem-based company announced late Tuesday the plant will close by the end of December.
Debbie Davis, manager of the local Employment Security Commission, said the United Way and other community partners will also be invited to go and meet with employees.
Employees will be eligible for regular unemployment benefits ó typically amounting to half their regular pay.
Davis said they may also get extended benefits.
Under the U.S. Trade Adjustment Act, employees could get additional weeks of unemployment benefits similar to regular unemployment while they look for jobs or take training.
The program also offers benefits that can pay tuition for retraining, buy supplies and provide an additional weekly benefit.
The programs are similar to those offered to Pillowtex and Freightliner employees in the past.
“Unfortunately, we are well versed in doing this,” Davis said.
Hanesbrands Inc. which has 50,000 employees worldwide, is a leading manufacturer of apparel including T-shirts and underwear.
The company plans to sell the 502,000-square-foot facility at 308 E. Thom St. A complex of several buildings, its construction dates back to 1923, when production began as China Grove Cotton Mills.
The building complex will soon be added to the list of sites being marketed by the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission.
“We hope to get on the site in the next few days,” said Robert Van Geons, executive director of the EDC. After compiling detailed information, he will move quickly to get it listed with the N.C. Department of Commerce and the Charlotte Regional Partnership.
“We want to see it occupied,” said Van Geons, adding that the facility could be attractive to potential clients.
While agencies try to assist employees and help the company with selling the property, the closing is expected to have a substantial impact on the town budget.
Hanesbrands is a major taxpayer and one of the town’s biggest water customers.
Mayor Don Bringle said Wednesday the loss of revenue from water sales will have an impact on the current utility budget and upcoming budgets.
Hanesbrands uses an average of slightly under 2 million gallons at a charge of $15,000 a month.
“It’s a bad situation,” Bringle said, adding the town will have to look at adjustments.
Bob Fallis, president of the China Grove Board of Trade, reflected on the role the mill has played in the community.
“Through the years, the employees of China Grove Cotton Mills, now Hanesbrands, Inc., have played an important role in the success and character of the business community in our region, particularly China Grove and the southern Rowan region,” Fallis said.
He noted the experience and track record of the various agencies helping employees affected by economic hardships and offered the assistance of the Board of Trade. Fallis encouraged Hanesbrands employees to accept and make full use of assistance and resources available to them.