New Era a major contributor to our schools

Published 7:48 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The countdown to the next New Era Cap Company plant closing is in full swing.

The company announced on Nov. 19 its intent to close the Jackson plant as soon as February 2010. Soon thereafter, it expects to close a Mobile-based distribution center and an additional cap manufacturing plant – either in Demopolis or Derby, N.Y.

The repercussions in Demopolis would be both immediate and obvious. More than 300 residents would be out of work in a county that currently already has a jobless rate of 14.5 percent. Adding up to 350 workers, to that number could send that figure skyrocketing an additional 5 percent. However, less obvious will be loss of contributions New Era makes to the community, as to the Demopolis City Schools Foundation.

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Jan McDonald, director of the Foundation, said that over the past 10 years, New Era’s contributions have totaled nearly $6,000.

“Those contributions have been pooled with all the others we receive each year, which have allowed us to do so many things for the teachers and the classrooms in the city schools,” McDonald said.

Aside from monetary donations and its membership in the Foundation, McDonald said New Era has been a regular contributor to other benefits and fundraisers that are critical elements to Foundation cash flow.

“In October 1998, New Era donated its Diamond Cap Collection for a drawing benefiting the Foundation,” she said.

The collection, which was won by Billy Norrell, included all 63 baseball caps the company produced at that time.

“The company also has regularly purchased Boston butts and smoked turkey breasts every fall to benefit the Foundation,” she added.

As New Era’s key decision makers mull which facility to close next, McDonald said the closure of the Demopolis city would be a dark day here.

“I remember the day (New Era) announced they were coming (to Demopolis),” she said. “It was like the entire city had just won the lottery; everyone was that excited. I’d never seen an entire city show that much support for a business. When New Era came here and got established, they showed a lot of support for Demopolis, too. They worked well together. I think they were, and still are, a good fit for one another.”