Sullivan Carson, a textile company with a plant in York that has been in business for about 60 years, has laid off dozens of employees and could be in the process of shutting down the York plant, former employees and state employment officials said Wednesday.
Political and economic officials in both the city of York and York County said they remain in the dark on the status of the company.
About 20 employees applied for unemployment benefits Wednesday at the Rock Hill Workforce Center of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, telling intake workers that the plant was closing, center director Annie Reid said.
Center officials contacted the rapid response team of the state's employment office to get information from plant management, she said, but state officials have not received any information from Sullivan Carson officials.
"There were so many people in here that we had to process them in groups," Reid said. "They said they were told by their employer they did not have jobs anymore."
It is unclear exactly how many people are employed by Sullivan Carson. The most recent survey done by York County Economic Development had the number of employees at about 50, said Mark Farris, county economic development director.
Steven Lockridge, 21, who said he had worked at the plant as a materials handler and packer for about a year and half until he was let go Tuesday, said Wednesday his father has been at the plant since 1983 and will be kept on until April.
Lockridge said employees were told the company was shutting down because it had lost a large customer.
Lockridge, who applied for unemployment benefits Wednesday, said employees were told Monday by department supervisors of the problems, then told Tuesday the jobs were gone.
"They told us they were closing the doors and not to come back," Lockridge said. "Right now, I need a job."
Sullivan Carson is a private company that makes narrow woven and knitted elastic and non-elastic fabrics, according to the National Textile Association website.
Lockridge said elastics made at the plant were used for such items as brassiere straps, logging companies and military parachutes.
Staff at the Sullivan Carson plant in York on Wednesday and at the company's New Jersey offices declined to discuss layoffs or the status of the plant over the telephone, referring all questions to plant manager Jim Carson.
Repeated attempts to reach Jim Carson Wednesday were unsuccessful, as were attempts to reach management at the company's New Jersey offices.
At around 4 p.m. Wednesday at the plant on Kings Mountain Street near the U.S. 321 Bypass, the front door was locked and just three vehicles were in the parking lot. No one answered the door at plant offices.
The layoffs and uncertain future of the plant surprised city and county leaders.
York City Manager Charles Helms, York Mayor Eddie Lee and York Area Chamber of Commerce head Paul Boker all said officials had not been told anything about the status of the Sullivan Carson plant.
York County Manager Jim Baker and county economic development chief Farris also had not been notified. Baker said it is rare that a company that was laying off employees or having any type of cutbacks or potential closings would not alert local government officials.
York County was once a center of textile manufacturing, with tens of thousands of workers at plants in Rock Hill, York, Clover and Fort Mill.
But, citing rising costs and problems competing in the marketplace, some companies have closed plants over the past decades, while others shifted production to foreign countries to take advantage of cheap labor.