North Carolina, unfortunately, has a rich history ... in outsourcing. With Phillip Morris recently announcing plans to close its Concord plant, the feeling is all too familiar; our state is known for waving "bon voyage" to our original cash crops as companies move production overseas. Furniture, textiles, tobacco -- our livelihood for generations -- where has it all gone? In 1977, North Carolina's "Big Three" products accounted for 22 percent of the gross state product. Now it's 7 percent. Indicators of the steady decline:
• 2007: Philip Morris will close a cigarette manufacturing plant in Concord, eliminating 2,500 jobs. Symptomatic of declining U.S. tobacco sales, they sell four times more cigarettes abroad.
• 2005: Thomasville Furniture lays off 588 workers as demand grows for cheaper imports.
• 2003: Pillowtex in Cabarrus and Rowan counties goes bankrupt, forcing 5,000 people out of work, the largest layoff in N.C. history.
• An estimated one million jobs have been lost nationwide in the textile- and apparel-manufacturing sector since the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994; 193,000 of those losses were in North Carolina.