State Rep. Jon Burns’ House District 157 stretches from Effingham County, across Screven and into Jenkins County. At last week’s Eggs and Issues meeting of the Effingham Chamber of Commerce, Burns asked his Effingham friends and neighbors to keep those in Jenkins County in mind this time of year.
While Effingham continues to expand and is on the verge of adding hundreds, potentially thousands, of new jobs in the coming years, employment in Millen and the rest of Jenkins County is in full-fledged retreat.
“It is the best of times and the worst of times in my district,” Burns said last week.
In 15 months, three of Jenkins County’s top employers have closed or have announced their intention to close. MI Windows and Doors, one of the nation’s leading makers of vinyl and aluminum windows and doors, will shutter its plant by the end of the month.
Already, Jockey International has shut down its plant on the heels of last year’s sweeping layoffs. Cavalier Home Builders also has laid off more than 100 workers. All told, that’s more than 600 jobs lost in barely more than a year.
Labor Department estimates say that one-third to one-half of all Jenkins County workers are now without jobs following those moves. The state opened a transition office in September after Jockey closed its doors for good. With more training, perhaps some can find new jobs nearby. Some just may need to be pointed in the right direction for a new job.
But many others may have to leave Jenkins County, which has a population of 8,700, to find work and start all over again.
At a time of the year when we also especially try to consider and help those less fortunate and those in need, Rep. Burns’ plea to think about our neighbors in Jenkins County shouldn’t fall on deaf ears.