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Burlington Industries Announces Cuts

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OXFORD — North Carolina's struggling textile industry received another major blow Tuesday.Burlington Industriesannounced major cuts, including the loss of more than 900 jobs inHokeand Granville Counties.

Burlington Industries will close seven plants, five in North Carolina, putting thousands of people out of work.

This is a big blow to people inOxford. The Burlington Industries plant has been there for 39 years.

Generations of families have worked there. Some people have never worked anywhere else. Tuesday, people were devastated by the news.

When Burlington Industries in Oxford closes its yarn making plant in December, 450 people will be out of work.

Ronnie Williams has supported his family by working as a machine operator at Burlington Industries for the past nine years.

"Well, it's my bread and butter. I feel kind of bad. I've been around the Oxford area for quite a while," said Williams.

"It's just a sad situation. You know when you've been here and you've raised your families here, it's heart-breaking," said employee Gracie Buchanan.

The plant has been one of Oxford's largest employers since it opened in 1960. The news spread quickly in the small, tight-knit community which is home to a little more than 10,000 people.

"Particularly in a small town, any big change is going to be seen as a minor earthquake of sorts," said Larry Slaughter of the Chamber of Commerce.

The plant manager says employees are taking the news hard.

"Everybody was hurt and shocked. We spent a lot of time out in the plant trying to talk to people and let them know that we understand their hurt, but we are going to do everything we possibly can to help our people find jobs in the community," said plant manager Calvin House.

Burlington Industries says it is reducing its capacity about 25 percent because it can no longer compete with cheaper foreign imports.

"We were hopeful that this was going to be a short-term problem. But we've decided that it is not going to be short-term. It's going to be long-term," said House.

They say that over the last nine months they have been losing a great deal of business, and it has finally forced them to make this difficult decision.

Burlington Industries will be phasing out employees over the next few months, and the plant in Oxford will be completely shut down by the end of December.

Many people will have to leave Oxford to find work. The town will not be able to absorb all the jobs.

Burlington Industries is the eighth largest company in terms of employees in North Carolina. Regionally, the layoffs will have an even larger effect.

According to state Department of Commerce numbers, Burlington is Granville County's second largest employer. In Hoke County, more people get paychecks from Burlington than any other employer, including county government and House of Raeford turkey producers.

Burlington Industries stockholders have been on a roller coaster ride over the past year.

In 52 weeks, the stock reached a high of 18 7/8 and a low of 7 1/2. Tuesday, Burlington Industries opened at 9 1/8. The stock closed at 8 3/4. That is a loss of over 9 1/2 percent.