The trickle down effect of the economic crisis is hitting Columbus county especially hard right now. Friday Georgia-Pacific announced that it will be shutting down by Christmas, and all of its 417 employees will be laid off, adding to the thousands of people already out of work in Columbus County. Last week, Darious Messer did not worry about how he was going to support his three week old baby girl. He had a good job at Georgia-Pacific. That all changed after last week's layoffs. "Paying the bills so we don't end up on the street, our car's out of gas, gas prices are expensive but you got to keep food in your kids mouth, that's my main concern," Messer said. He is not the only one worried about surviving. Christopher Faulk was laid off by Georgia-Pacific as well. "I got a wife and 3 kids and I'm up here right now at the unemployment office trying to find a job to support them." Monday, Faulk and Messer went to the Whiteville Job Link office, in search of employment. Job Link is a job training and placement agency, and is part of the Employment Security Commission. Manager Charles Garrett said Georgia-Pacific is one of 3 large construction trade corporations in Whiteville that have closed in the past couple of years. "When housing slows down and things like that, what you find is that houses aren't being built, construction slows down, those workers don't have the opportunities that they once had." These closures have left around 800 people unemployed in Whiteville alone. Across Columbus County, nearly 2,200 people are out of work. That is up 3 percent from last year. “It's gonna touch the retailers because the people who were working at the plant the money that they were going to spend on the holidays that's going to affect other parts of the economy," Garrett said. But Garrett said changes are in the works. "We've now brought on board a new economic developer who's aggressively recruiting new developments to our area." But for Messer and Faulk, these changes may be too little too late. Garrett said current and future Whiteville employers have the opportunity to ask for customized training. Southeastern Community College is working to get its curriculum to meet their employer's needs for the future.
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