A new job means new hope

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Some of the new hires building the first pieces of furniture at Albany Industries this week have been unemployed or working odd jobs for months or even years.

By April Wright, Reporter



After working at three plants where jobs have all been outsourced and after earning two degrees from community college while in between jobs, Rick Barrington of Woodlawn said it feels good to get back to work.
“These past six years have been like a roller coaster,” said Barrington, who worked at National Textiles and two other local textile mills before they shut their doors.
Even though he has furthered his education, it has been nearly impossible to find a job.
“I don’t know what I would do without my wife working at Lowe’s,” said Barrington, who has a child to put through college.
Barrington was one of 12 workers that were training at Albany Industries new Galax plant on Monday — the first day that workers learned the process of making the company’s upholstered living room furniture.
The New Albany, Miss.-based company bought Vaughan Furniture’s former B.C. Vaughan plant and plans to create 335 new jobs for the area over three years.
This is the results of a $2.5 million investment from local and state incentives for equipment, facility upgrades and job placement. The company will also invest $700,000 of its own funds in equipment.
During training, Barrington learned how to fill seat cushions, along with Mike Woolwine of Independence.
Woolwine has been out of work since January. He worked for Highland Mechanical during the Grayson County Courthouse enhancement project, which was funded by federal stimulus dollars. This kind of funding allowed for only a short-term position.
Donnie Dalton of Galax, who showed how the fiber picker machine worked, said he had worked for Vaughan Furniture until the company stopped manufacturing. For the past few months, he had worked for a local lumber company, but decided to take a job at Albany Industries.
“I wanted better money, insurance and benefits,” he said. “I hope it’s a lot better than what I had at the lumber company, and I think they’ll be a good company to work for.”
Mike Wallace of Independence, also training on Monday, had been unemployed for a year.
“It’s been bad all around this community,” said Wallace, who was training in assembling frames for the furniture. “It’s so wonderful to have a job again. It’s just a breath of fresh air.”
Wallace had worked for Vaughan-Bassett Furniture for three years, but shortly after taking on a position at another company in Sparta, N.C., it closed down.
“I’ve been temping ever since,” he said. “I’ve had to rely on food stamps and take on odd jobs, like mowing.”
With about 25 people hired on at the new company, a dozen more were to train on Tuesday. Some furniture pieces were expected to be complete this week.
The furniture will then be shipped to dealers in the eastern parts of the country.
“We’re just going to train as we go,” said Terry Treadaway, vice president of the company. “The ultimate plan it to have five lines, but we still have some construction work to do.”
In the beginning, two production lines will be up and running, and then the company will expand to three lines. Albany plans to have about 100 people working at the plant by January.