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Textile Company Throws in the Towel, Announces Hundreds of Layoffs

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ROANOKE RAPIDS — Job security is not what it used to be in the textile industry. Just ask more than 400 workers in Roanoke Rapids who were handed their walking papers.

TheWestPoint Stevensflag is still flying over Roanoke Rapids, but the luster is wearing thin for 450 workers who will clock out for the last time in January. The loss of jobs will deal a big blow to the area's economy.

Earl Handsome has been employed at the plant for 23 years.

"I really don't know where people are going to look to find a job, not here in this area," he says. "They try to keep their homes, their cars, take care of the children. It's going to be hard."

Handsome just bought a house. He says there is nothing in town right now that pays as well, so for now on, he will drive a truck for a living.

"I can't get a job right here that will pay for that house, so I have to go out and find something that's going to pay for it," he says.

The union says the layoff is part of a national trend.

"Companies are choosing to produce overseas, to outsource overseas either in Asia or Mexico or Central America. The market for that seems to be expanding quite a bit," says union representative Tony Galfano.

There may be some help for worker education because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

If a person loses his or her job to another country, there is often government assistance available to help a person earn their GED or high school diploma.

Most workers will receive some severance pay, but for many, a comparable job is the only thing that can keep them in Roanoke Rapids, hometown or not.

West Point Stevens will still have more than 1,000 employees at the plant. Even with the layoffs, it is the area's largest employer.