Columbus County already has one of the highest unemployment rates at 8.5% in southeastern North Carolina. And that is not counting the 417 Georgia-Pacific employees who will be laid off in December. Large factories in the textile industry have shut down in Columbus County before, causing thousands of people to be laid off. So the county has experienced this before and has old and new programs in place to help those who've lost their job get back on their feet. Nancy Dudley was one of the 3,000 workers laid off when the Columbus County textile factories closed in the late 90's. "It was kind of devastating at first that they were closing because we didn't know what we were going to do." Then Job Link, a job training and placement service, visited the factory and they work with the Georgia-Pacific lay-offs. Teresa Triplett is a Job Link employee. She said, "We'll work with them and the Job Link Center and their partners in getting together a resume, talking with other companies that are in the hiring process to see how quickly we can link them together." Workers will have the option to get a High School equivalence and attend college at South Eastern Community College. That is what Dudley chose to do, and now she works for the school, fixing computers. "It's just amazing to go from a sewing machine operator to a technician. So many people that worked with me at that plant became nurses and found so many better jobs than they had before." Job Link also helps unemployed workers find the money they need to go to school, through scholarships, grants or loans. "The goal is to help these this group of workers get back to work as quickly as possible for our entire economy," Triplet said. The new Columbus County economic planner, who is in Florida right now trying to get a new boating manufacturing company to build in Columbus County, is also very optimistic about these programs. He said he has also been in talks with several other corporations about opening in Columbus County, and the community college says it will tailor training to meet employers' needs.
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