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More than just jobs at stake, Mr. Koch

Thursday, New Era Cap Co. announced their intent to consolidate their three U.S. operations into one.

The first casualty was their Jackson facility, which will be closed in approximately three months.

Hanging in the balance now are plants in Derby, New York and Demopolis.

According to New Era spokesman Paul Gallagher, one of those two plants will be closed by the Spring of 2010.

Considering the Demopolis facility employs more than 300 of our friends and neighbors, that’s alarming news.

A decision on which of the two plants will be closed will be made after discussions with the Communications Workers of America, which represents employees at both facilities.

That’s not a decision best made in a boardroom. That’s one that needs to be made in the field.

Displacing 300-plus workers in either city is bad enough, but what those jobs and the company means to this community are too important to lose.

New Era has long been a supporter of many local and worthy causes in Demopolis, the city schools included. How many students have gotten a leg up or an opportunity they otherwise may have missed through New Era’s contributions to the Demopolis City School Foundation?

How many New Era hats have been auctioned off at local church fundraisers or used to help raise money for missions? What I’d like New Era CEO Chris Koch to know is that New Era supports much more than Major League Baseball. They’ve become a critical and vital part of Demopolis and the things that make us special. That Demopolis plant is important on multiple levels.

Believe me. I understand cost control. It often means you have to make some difficult decisions and I do not envy Mr. Koch’s position.

I have great respect for his company – a company he and his family have built into an industry giant – and the products they produce.

What I hope is given great consideration is that New Era’s Demopolis plant means a lot of things to a lot of people, well beyond the stylish “throwback” Milwaukee Brewers hats or the Atlanta Braves Cooperstown caps.

It’s means stability to a region of Alabama that doesn’t get to enjoy that feeling very often.

Jason Cannon is publisher of the Demopolis Times.