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Harnett's Second-Largest Manufacturer Will Close, Leaving 740 Out of Work

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ERWIN — Big job losses are coming to a small Harnett County town. A century-old textile mill is closing, and over 700 workers will lose their jobs.

Years of rumors about the Swift Denim Plant's demise were confirmed Thursday. Within three months, the Erwin plant will close, leaving 740 people out of work.

Swift Denim is hailed as the world's leading manufacturer of fashion denim, and its hometown of Erwin calls itself the "Denim Capital of the World."

"I love these people," says plant employee Dewey Smith. "This is my home. This is shutting down my home."

The closing will take a huge chunk out of the town's tax base, especially considering that only 4,000 people live there.

The past couple of years have been tough on the area's workforce. Harnett County has lost almost 2,000 jobs since 1998.

The mill's owner, Gayley and Lord, Inc., says the closing is part of a company reorganization, explaining the facility costs too much to operate.

"I feel like I've been hit in the guts," says Tim Driver, the company's senior vice president. "I think about them, but they will go on."

Still, Driver believes the business decision was one that had to be made, saying he has "absolutely no doubt that it's the right decision."

The company says the workers' benefits will be protected and that it will try to find them other jobs.


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