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New Era Cap goes bowling for jobs

Each December, our televisions are clogged with 30-plus college football bowl games, many of which pit teams who barely scraped together a winning record against one another.

This December, we’ll have the opportunity to watch one more. This one, however, will be rife with irony for the people of Demopolis, for the death of one of the city’s largest employers gave birth to this game.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to the 2010 college football postseason lineup.

The bowl is sponsored by the same New Era Cap Co. who recently – citing an economic downturn and diminished demand for their product – announced they would shut their Demopolis operation down, packing up 350 jobs in the move.

If you believe in reincarnation, one can only assume our 350 jobs will spend next December on the gridiron in New York City’s Yankee Stadium.

New Era Cap Co. agreed to a four-year deal to sponsor a game that will feature the No. 3 team in the Big East Conference and the No. 6 team in the Big 12.

Had the game been played in 2009, the matchup would have been between West Virginia and Missouri. Not exactly a barn-burner.

Earlier this year, two attractive incentive packages were presented to New Era leadership by the cities of Demopolis and Derby, N.Y.

Both were fighting to keep 350-plus jobs each within their city limits. Ultimately, Derby won, but it wasn’t a complete victory.

Employees at the Derby facility made several financial concessions.

According to an article I found on the Washington Post’s Web site, title sponsorship for a lower-tier bowl game can run upwards of $1 million annually. I was unable to find the cost of sponsoring the Pinstripe Bowl, and a New Era corporate spokesperson did not return our phone call, so let’s just assume it was fairly close. Even if it was half that amount, that’s a large pill to swallow, considering New Era is currently in the process of laying off all of its Alabama-based workforce.

Too, it seems like a hard sell to the Derby employees who approved reduced wages and bonuses in February, just to keep their jobs.

In any event, I can assure you that the money spent on jobs in Demopolis would be dollars better spent than another bowl game in an already crowded ESPN winter lineup.

Jason Cannon is publisher of the Demopolis Times.