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Jackson Paper bucks manufacturing trend

Last week’s announcement that 61 new jobs are coming to Sylva with the expansion of Jackson Paper is relief for a town hurting from the closing of the T&S Hardwoods sawmill that employed 75.

Stonewall Packaging LLC, a joint venture of Jackson Paper, is investing more than $17 million to build a second plant in Sylva.

Witness to the tough job climate, the Employment Security Commission Office in Sylva was filled Monday with people looking for work.

Jackson Papers, which currently employs 119, makes corrugated cardboard from recycled paper. The 61 jobs will come to Jackson Paper over a three-year period and pay an average of $39,344, better than the county’s average annual wage of $27,820.

Not only is this good news for Sylva but also for the manufacturing sector in general, which has had large declines in North Carolina and across the nation over the past decade.

According to a report from the N.C. Department of Commerce, manufacturing jobs in the state declined by 80,100 or 10.7 percent in 2001, partially due to the jobs going overseas.

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During the seven year period beginning in 2001, manufacturing employment decreased by nearly 210,000, but the state added approximately 25,000 jobs in the finance sector, 85,000 jobs in the professional sector, and 130,000 jobs in health and education, reflecting the transition and diversification of the economy.

But don’t count manufacturing out yet.

A report on manufacturing from North Carolina State University states, “Manufacturing continues to be the leading contributor to North Carolina’s Gross Domestic Product at 18.6 percent, although that represents a decline of 5.7 percent from 1997 to 2007. Manufacturing continues to employ the most people at 16.7 percent of the total workforce, providing above-average wage jobs to more than 535,000 individuals.”

Of the 10,567 manufacturing companies in North Carolina, almost 80 percent have 50 or fewer employees.

A manufacturer in Waynesville, Haywood Vocational Opportunities, also recently announced that it would be expanding with the construction of a second plant and creating 50 new jobs. HVO currently employs 315.

The new jobs will be good for the area that is seeing double-digit unemployment. Jackson’s unemployment was at 10.3 percent in January, the latest figures available. That’s up 5.2 percent from the year before, accounting for 2,028 without a job.

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