The January 2011 announcement of 1,900 jobs lost at the American Express Greensboro location is more jobs lost in Guilford County than in all of 2010 closings and layoffs put together. An area typically registering above the statewide unemployment average is now watching as a 25 year-old Greensboro big hitter call center takes its jobs, and philanthropic support, to Phoenix, Az., Salt Lake City, Utah, and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Despite the urgency to help displaced employees transition into another job and make sure their needs are met, the lost jobs are being viewed by leaders as something that is only temporary. Meanwhile, thousands in the Triad have been trying to find jobs for more than a year. The unemployment rate in Guilford County alone has not dipped below 9.7 percent in more than 12 months.
“Every single day,” Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue said at a press conference at the Guilford Technical Community College aviation site, “I wake up personally worried about the thousands of thousands of people in North Carolina who yet cannot find jobs.”
Perdue told the small gathering of local business owners, Greensboro Mayor Bill Knight, and state and local leadership that there are jobs in the area, emphasizing that this not only is about Guilford County job loss, but also surrounding counties too. She made no mention of a detailed strong economic development plan, although she said she was working on a small business budget announcement to help foster the expansion of small businesses.
While trying to remain optimistic, she brought up previous global companies that went through similar types of restructuring. Perdue talked about Charlotte-based Wachovia and Kannapolis-based Pillowtex, and said eventually their redevelopment and new ownership took a positive turn. It took five years after going bankrupt before scientists and university administrators from several North Carolina universities moved into two newly-constructed, jointly operated North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) buildings north of Charlotte. NCRC was founded by David Murdock, former Chief Executive Officer of Dole Foods. The demolition and reconstruction of buildings created jobs faster than the new jobs offered, which required a different skill set than what was once offered in the same location when Pillowtex was operating.
The “aggressive” rapid response team she assembled, Perdue said, has among many things been calling around to find another use for the facility and a comparable company to move to its location. The closure of American Express is part of a money-saving consolidation. A statement made by executives Wednesday, Jan. 19 revealed that there was a significant reduction in business and credit collection volumes due to increased use of mobile and online technologies by customers. The jobs that are leaving the Triad for other locations are going to be folded in larger facilities.
While Perdue is touting her ability to be a jobs governor, it is in question whether she is paying attention to trends, admitting that she had no idea that American Express was planning to leave Greensboro. She said she knows there are jobs in the Triad, then why aren’t people working? And she said she wants to bring the same type of operation back to the area, while mobile and online sources are being increasingly utilized. For someone who is endorsing the growth of innovation, and science and technology, she doesn’t seem to be acting very scientific in her decision making. Roughly 1,300 jobs were lost in Guilford County in 2010 (excluding December data) according to the Employment Security Commission.
“Know that better days are coming for the Triad and North Carolina,” Perdue said.