Factory Closing Bad News for Small Missouri Town

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CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Barely a year after purchasing a manufacturing plant from a competitor, clothing maker Hanes is set to close down the facility, leaving many in the town scrambling for work at a time when jobs in small towns can be hard to come by.

Hanes Brands, which – at least for now – is based out of Lenexa, Kansas, bought the facility from Gear for Sports in August of 2010. Workers at the plant made sports-related clothing like college football t-shirts and other items. Cecilia Harper just started at the plant four months ago after being out of work for two years.

“I think it’s going to be impossible (to find a new job). I mean it took me this long to find this job.  What’s it going to take and how am I going to live?” said Harper.

Chillicothe Mayor Chuck Haney says that he believes that the handwriting was on the wall for the plant the moment Hanes purchased the plant.

“It was like a bomb shell had been dropped on us,” said Haney. “That’s exactly the fact, that there was plans the day they announced the sale, the next day they began work to get ready to move this plant to Mexico.”

Haney says that the jobs at the Chillicothe plant paid between $8 and $12 an hour, much more than in Mexico.

The closure has many people in town worried about their future.

“We used to have quite a bit of business with them in the evening, we would deliver dinners down there,” said Michelle Eckert, who runs a downtown cafe. “We haven’t delivered in the last two months at all.”

For people like the 57-year-old Harper, the prospects of finding a new job in a small town in a bad economy are daunting.

“How can I be self-sufficient if I have no income?” said Harper, who says that the American middle class is extinct. “I don’t think there will be a middle class. That’s what i feel. I feel there are going to be rich people and poor people and that’s just the way it’s going to be.”

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