How does a small one-industry town in the rural American South survive when the major employer shuts down and many jobs are lost? Changes in the “global economy” have cut dramatically the jobs once held in textile, furniture, manufacturing, and other businesses in the South as well as other regions during the past few decades. As a result, many manufacturing plants now stand idle in the rural, former mill towns that dot the South.
|A biotechnology research center is being|
built on the site of a former textile plant.
Less than 100 miles from Kannapolis is Star, NC, another small town affected by mill closings. However, it faces a more challenging future because no billionaire has stepped forward to rescue it. Unlike Kannapolis’s claim as the home for future biotechnology research, Star’s biggest boast is that it is the geographical center of North Carolina.
With an early history as a shipping point for turpentine, lumber, and brick, the town grew more prosperous when the hosiery mill industry arrived, and mill jobs formed the basis of the local economy for fifty years. However, when the industry left town in the 1990s, more than 2,000 lost their jobs, and Star began to decline.
| STARworks occupies a|
former hosiery mill complex
|Part of the clay factory|
|(The STARworks facility also |
includes a glass studio, but it
was closed during the open house.)
|Area for ceramics and |
What the Star community is doing with its business incubator provides a clear example to other communities that once depended on one industry now shut down. Rather than trying to recruit another big manufacturing company to replace the operation lost, STARworks focuses instead on entrepreneurs who can grow small businesses and develop them further in the local community. Taking advantage of local natural and cultural assets to nurture business startups also offers more promise than attempting to attract another operation with no connection to the community and whose tenure is not guaranteed.