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Ailing Factory Towns Face Tougher Road To Recovery

A March sampling of laid-off factory workers in the area found 44 percent had less than a high school diploma, 47 percent needed health care benefits and 33 percent needed mortgage or rental assistance. Last year, the county social services rolls ¿ from foster care to Medicaid ¿ increased four percent. This year, they are projected to increase another 13 percent.

"It's grown beyond our doors," said Linda Allison, director of the Alamance County Department of Social Services, who helped form response teams to confront factory closures.

There are faint signs of a rebound. LabCorp, a medical sample testing company, has become the largest employer in town with 3,400 workers, and classes at Alamance Community College are crowded with students training for a career there.

Honda intends to build a new breed of light commercial jets in Burlington and hire 600 employees. It announced in April, however, that "global aerospace industry business challenges" will stall deliveries until the fourth quarter of 2011.

Burlington officials have sought $12 million in federal stimulus money to pay for 50 job-creating infrastructure projects. And the town is located just outside the Research Triangle region, home to the research jobs found at the University of North Carolina, Duke University, North Carolina State University and private firms.

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