This leading supplier of molded plastics for semi-trucks provided nearly 500 jobs for workers in Canton and the surrounding towns. Good manufacturing jobs are harder and harder to come by; that this international corporation would open a branch in Haywood was a major boost to the regional economy.
This all changed as the trucking industry slowed in the chaos of spring 2020. The Canton plant was forced to lay off 120 workers to combat significantly reduced demand for their product. “When we laid the employees off at the end of March that was 100 percent due to Covid,” said Everett Lynch, human resources director at ConMet in Canton. “We just didn’t have the orders because the truck plants were also down.”
Now, however, they’re ramping back up. In a world where online shopping has become the norm, parts for semi-trucks have never been in higher demand.
“If you think about Amazon, we make parts for every truck they have,” said Lynch. This resurgence in shipping has enabled ConMet to rehire every worker they laid off in the spring. “We’ve already brought all of them back,” Lynch said.
Even better, as the economy recovers by the day, ConMet has begun actively hiring new talent.
“Right now, we are in a position where we’re needing additional labor because of where the market’s at,” Lynch said. “We are direct hiring right now.”
This is excellent news for the local economy. Manufacturing jobs are solid indicators of economic health. As plants like ConMet rehire and grow, we can look to the mountains’ post-COVID market at large for recovery.
ConMet’s plant in Bryson City remains closed, however. After stripping the factory down to a skeleton crew in 2018, ConMet’s been largely silent on the future of the Bryson City location. Many one-time workers from Swain now commute to the Haywood County plant.
“We don’t have plans there [Bryson City] at the moment,” said Lynch. “We’re focusing in on Canton.”
Lynch encouraged anyone in search of a job to consider ConMet.
“I don’t think a lot of people know about us,” he said. “Right now, we’re just trying to get our name back out there. We’re an employee-owned company, we have our own stock, our benefits are super competitive. We are direct hiring, and we just want to be the key leader as far as places to work in Haywood county.”
David Francis, head of Haywood County’s economic development council, is excited about the implications of a resurgent ConMet.
“It’s great news for a fast recovery, great news for the town, great news for Haywood county,” he said.