Chipley, Florida --
The uncertainty is over for about 400 panhandle factory workers, who had been worried about their jobs. Their employer, the WestPoint Home
Textile business in Chipley, will remain open. That’s a reversal of the company’s 2009 closure announcement, which some people say is nothing short of a miracle.
Applause resonated throughout the building as more than 400 WestPoint Home Textile employees officially learned their jobs were safe Thursday morning (Nov. 5).
"This facility is not closing, these jobs are staying and we're looking to the future and growing," says Terry Ellis, WestPoint Home General Manager.
The exciting news is a stark contrast to Ellis’ April 2009 announcement that the factory would be closing its doors.
“These jobs are worth saving.”
The news then was heartbreaking for employees like 20-year-veteran Tony Garrette.
"It's a family, we're all a big family up here and it's like a family that's been disrupted. If it wasn't for this place, there's no telling where a lot of people would be right now," Garrette said.
"It's nothing short of a miracle really...especially in the economy we're in today, I had one of our employees say that, you know, this is the first time that we've been to a funeral where the body got up and walked off, you just don't see that," says Richard Williams, Chipola Reg. Workforce Board.
WestPoint Home caters to a number of name brand clients from Wal-Mart to Target and Ralph Lauren. And even after learning last year that the facility would be closing down, employees still managed to set production and quality records with their products.
Ellis says the company’s success is a reminder of what the American Dream is all about.
"I think the American worker, given a level playing field, nobody will be more productive and will care more about what they're doing," says Ellis.
Not only will the Chipley Plant remain open, Ellis says they’ll soon be adding more employees with the holiday season approaching; however, it won’t reach the 900 total employees WestPoint used to have before closing down its Marianna plant.