• 41°

A stunning day for N.C.

For Rowan and Cabarrus counties, the Great Recession started July 30, 2003, the day Pillowtex closed. The community’s reaction was reflected in the face of mill worker Donald Auten at the news conference where the closing was announced. Looking worried, Auten put his hand to his mouth.
Oh, no. What now?

Economists and labor experts can spout statistics about the 6,450 jobs Pillowtex shed that day and the impact on Rowan, Cabarrus and other communities where the company operated. The demise of Pillowtex was part of a massive shift in the state’s economy. Manufacturing jobs migrated to cheaper labor sources and the suddenly unemployed were just left to deal with it.
That was what hurt — the dealing with it.

Thousands of dependable, hard-working people like Donald Auten suddenly had no jobs. Layoffs and plant closings always hurt, but the magnitude of this one made it especially shocking. And the shock waves reached far — hurting local businesses and tearing up the plans of countless young people who thought they’d be able to get a job at the mill.
The response from local agencies was just as huge. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College geared up to train workers for new careers. Even before the announcement, Rowan County United Way had started holding meetings at the Civic Center for employees at local plants that had been idled.
Thanks to David Murdock’s vision and several universities’ research, Kannapolis is recreating itself and has a bright future. Education and technology are paving the way.
But give the former employees their due. They were part of the largest layoff in state history, hit by the demise of a company that was not too big to fail — so it failed in a very big way. To this day, many families have not recovered from the loss of pay, benefits and stability that textile jobs gave their lives. A generation was knocked off its feet.
But many pushed on, determined to survive and adapt. Their history should be recorded, too.

People joined hands and prayed in the park outside the mill after the closing was announced that day in 2003, and Donald Auten was among them. After the group broke up, a reporter interviewed him. Auten said he’d start looking for another job — and keep praying.
“The Lord’s looked after me this long,” he said, “and he’s gonna still look after me.”
Daughter Stephanie Thomas says Auten went back to college, but he didn’t finish. “In 2006 he went on to heaven,” she said in a Facebook message. “… He was a wonderful man.”
Auten was 55.

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank

College

North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker

Education

Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools

Local

Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid

Nation/World

When will gas situation return to normal?

Local

Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart

News

GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire

News

Black high school softball player told to cut hair

Coronavirus

State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan

Coronavirus

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday

News

Facing personnel deficiencies, local fire departments request tax rate increases

Local

‘Panic buying’ creates gas supply shortages locally, statewide after pipeline cyberattack

Business

Twice as nice: Planet Smoothie opens alongside Cold Stone Creamery in co-branded store

Local

Spencer board gets update on South Iredell rat problem

Education

West Rowan teacher awarded $15,000 outdoor learning grant

Cleveland

Town of Cleveland plans celebration May 22

High School

High school girls tennis: Busy Hornets win again easily

High School

High school softball: Nixon, Walton top all-county team

Education

All Hood Alumni and Friends Symposium scheduled June 18