Several thousand of the five million manufacturing jobs America lost since 2000 came out of the Asheboro, N.C., area -- once a thriving factory hub. But as Scott Pelley finds, despite the lingering economic damage this trend is causing, there is hope in pickle maker Jenny Fulton and others like her, whose innovative businesses are defying the trend. Pelley's report from this perennial election battleground state will be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday, Oct. 28 at 7:00 p.m. PT/ET.
Fulton and her friend, Ashlee Furr, were laid off stockbrokers until Fulton decided she would try to make a living from what she knew best. "I grew up on pickles. My grandmother used to make pickles," she tells Pelley. So they started Miss Jenny's Pickles and soon after, set their sights on selling them abroad. They wound up selling them in China after Fulton slipped a jar of her pickles to the head of the Export-Import Bank by befriending his driver. "You have to think out of the jar, you know. If you're selling pickles, you better be creative," says Fulton.
Miss Jenny's Pickles employs just a handful of people, but other innovators have put many more to work. Technimark employs 800 workers in a business that competes effectively against Chinese companies by turning around plastic products here in two weeks, instead of the two months it can take the Chinese to produce and ship. Klaussner furniture had to lay off half of its workers because of cheaper Chinese imports, but had an out of the jar thought: sell some of their sturdier furniture to the rising Chinese middle class, for whom "Made in America" is a status symbol. They kept their factory open.
The "green shoots" these and other innovators represent in the economic rubble of North Carolina's Randolph County have knocked the unemployment rate down to 9.5 percent from 13 percent. But people are still being laid off faster than new jobs are created. Sugar and Bobby Berry were just celebrating Bobby's new job at a cereal plant after losing a factory job three years ago. But Sugar, his wife, then learned the wire-factory job she had worked for 27 years was going away, probably overseas. The economic recovery politicians promise just keeps receding in front of the Berrys. Says Bobby, "I just lost confidence in all of [the politicians] to tell you the truth. They'll make these promises around election time...I don't even know if I'll vote."