Middle Georgia Workforce Area

Averting Economic Disaster - Responding to Brown & Williamson (B&W)
Tobacco Corporation Layoff

In October 2003, Brown & Williamson, the nation’s third largest tobacco company, announced they would close their Macon plant. All 2,100 plant workers were slated to lose their jobs in Macon by 2006, although some workers will transfer to another plant and some will retire. In an attempt to minimize the impact of the layoff on affected workers and the local economy, the Georgia Department of Labor requested and was awarded a $4.2 million National Emergency Grant (NEG) from the U.S. Department of Labor. Georgia’s Trade Act application was also approved, which qualified displaced employees to receive the full range of Trade services. A team of local and state workforce partners promptly assembled to begin crafting a menu of services for affected workers. These partners included Brown & Williamson management and union representatives, the Macon/Bibb Workforce Area, the Middle Georgia Workforce Area, the Macon and Houston County Career Centers, Macon State, the Macon Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Tech, Middle Georgia Tech, Central Georgia Tech, several Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) state staff (e.g., Dislocation Services, Workforce Development, Field Services, Unemployment Insurance), and others. The team members, who met frequently and came to know, understand, respect, and trust each other, were instrumental in responding to the needs of the affected workers. Initially, workforce resource areas were set up at Brown & Williamson and the Macon and Houston Career Centers. Several group activities were conducted at the plant, including Job Search and Career Exploration workshops, and group Unemployment Insurance claims. Workers slated to be laid off were surveyed, as were local businesses. Although many affected employees were understandably unsure of their future plans, a large number were interested in training or starting their own businesses. The B&W Transition Hope Center, staffed by GDOL and Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funded staff at the B&W plant, opened its doors in July 2004. An advisory group of company and union representatives, the Outplacement Task Team (OT2), helps guide services offered at the center. The center is open Monday-Thursday, and offers both early morning and evening hours for the convenience of B&W customers. Services available at the new center include the following: Assessment and Testing Services » Career Counseling » Job Search & Employability Skills Training » Resume Development » Onthe Job Training » Supportive Services » Training Services » Financial Planning » Customized Training » Entrepreneur and Other Workshops » 17 Computers for Customer Use » Job Development Specialist » Individual Counseling In July 2004, the merger of B&W with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Corporation was approved by the Federal Trade Commission and B&W shareholders, eliminating any doubt that the B&W plant closure would be carried out. For additional information about R.J. Reynolds and their parent company, Reynolds American, please visit: http://www.reynoldsamerican.com/. For additional information, please contact: Middle Georgia Consortium, Inc. (478) 953-4771, or 1-800-537-1933

January 24, 2005