View Full Version : Company town will cease to exist after falling victim to economic slump

06-16-2011, 03:56 PM
The recession just outlasted us': Company town will cease to exist after falling victim to economic slump
The recession has claimed many victims, but this could be the first town to be completely wiped off the map.
The mining town of Empire in Nevada, about 100 miles northeast of Reno in the Black Rock Desert, was created in 1923.
But from June 20, it will simply cease to exist, its 300 inhabitants will no longer live there, the ZIP code won't even exist any more.
In fact the only thing remaining of the town, which was once home to the United States Gypsum Corporation, will be an eight-foot chain-link fence crowned with barbed wire sealing off the 136-acre plot and a sign saying Welcome to Nowhere - which has never proven so true.
Empire was a company town, completely built around the USG, which is the nation's largest drywall manufacturer.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the town of Empire had all it needed for its tiny population to survive - four dusty streets lined with cottonwoods, elms, and silver poplars, dozens of low-slung houses, a community hall, a swimming pool, a cracked tennis court, and a nine-hole golf course called Burning Sands.
The residents of Empire were told just before Christmas that the town was to be no more, when 92 workers were told that, not only did they not have jobs, but they no longer had houses.
January 31 was the last workday for 95 of the 99 USG employees at the mine and plant. They turned gypsum into sheetrock, a trademarked name and the most common wallboard used in the construction industry.
Four workers remain, but this will be whittled down to two by the end of the month.
Workers with families were allowed to stay for free in company-provided housing for another five months so their children could finish the school year.
The company reported losses of about $1.5billion over the past three years because what USG produces is not in high demand any more.
By the end of 2010, wallboard sales had dropped more than 50 per cent since 2006, when the industry peaked and USG had $297 million in profits.
They hiked drywall prices in an attempt to salvage the industry, but it didn't work.
Steve Conley, who began working there in the early 1970s told the Christian Science Monitor: 'Every day we made it was a day closer to economic recovery. But the recession just outlasted us.'
Once a noisy, bustling quarry, it is now silent, a veritable ghost town - the roads are blocked, the gates are up, the houses and lawns are rundown and the delighted squeals and shrieks of children playing in the streets are no more.
Residents say it now looks like a concentration camp.
Calvin Ryle, 62, began working in Empire on July 1, 1971. In January, he helped bring the last piece of drywall off the line.
Standing beside a conveyor belt in the factory, where his son and his daughter-in-law both worked, Mr Ryle raised his hand and pressed the stop button for the last time.
He said: 'I've been here for 39 years and seven months. I've never missed a single day, never been injured.
'The worst thing you can hear in a board plant is silence. You're a part of building America. It's not just making Sheetrock here.'
The plant's maintenance foreman, Aaron Constable, watched Mr Ryle close the place down
He said: 'He actually stood there and cried. He's up there at the main start-stop station. When they said, "You go ahead and shut her down," it took him some while before he actually pushed the button.'
Many of the workers have managed to find jobs in Nevada's gold mines, since the price of the precious metal has sky-rocketed in the recession.
Five miles down the road in Gerlach, where Empire's children were bused to school each morning, 23 employees of the Washoe County School District anxiously await news.
Ten of those 23 are teachers, and while a couple retired to stay here, the rest were guaranteed a spot in one of Reno's schools.
There has also been talk that if the economy recovers, the plant could be reopened but most don't hold out hope that this will happen.
Mr Ryle told the Christian Science Monitor he doesn't think this will happen, and will be leaving his gold hard hat - a reward for 25 years of loyal service - behind him in the house he has lived in for decades.
But he's not leaving everything behind. He says he'll transplant the rosebushes and a tree from his front yard when he moves to Fernley, Nevada, where he just bought his first home.
He said: 'I planted that tree, so I'll dig that one up. They don't care. And it's my tree. I'm taking it with me.'

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2003681/Empire-Nevada-cease-exist-falling-victim-economic-recession.html#ixzz1PTyGD7SA