Coming Together in Liberty

I was in the Liberty Food Lion, yesterday morning, when the power went off. Rather than complain, everybody moved to the registers and got checked out, during the fifteen minutes of emergency power.

Meanwhile, North of Liberty on 421, they’re building a bridge for traffic transiting the Megasite.

During the two months since I’ve been back, I’ve come to love this place. Whereas people in Greensboro are pretty much shut down since COVID, people in Liberty make eye contact, talk and laugh.

I’ve become good friends with many of the employees and managers at Food Lion, where it has become increasing clear how vital the service they provide to Liberty is, lacking any major thoroughfare, with 421 having bypassed the town decades ago.

Next week, I expect to return to a woke work place in Greensboro. As an older white man, I am not hopeful that I will last very long.

Regardless, the Wife recently expressed a renewed commitment to get me through this.

It seems the only thing worse than having me around is not having me around.

What passes for the local newspaper announced a couple of meetings in Liberty to discuss neighborhood improvements, presumably in line with the leaders’ plan to make the town a bedroom community, in anticipation of local megasites.

Geographically, Liberty has suffered being twenty miles from Greensboro, Burlington, Siler City and Asheboro, where people typically go to work. It has therefore always been a bedroom community, at least since the ’70s, when most of the industries began to leave. This isolation appears to have protected Liberty from most of the neoliberal industrial and social destruction now rampant in bigger cities.

Asheboro, the seat of Randolph County, in particular, has become the Wild West, with retail and restaurant chains crowding every intersection, having exhausted opportunities in Greensboro and Burlington. Still, the I-85 corridor is growing like mad, as Asheboro and Siler City languish.

Even though Asheboro finally has a beltway around the city, Siler City stands to gain most from the megasite activity to their East. In this regard, it really doesn’t matter if the megasite North of Liberty is successful, as the commute for Liberty workers is not much further to the much more promising megasites to the South in Chatham County.

Unfortunately, Liberty political planning continues to suffer from a lack of people with manufacturing experience. In that regard, Liberty has always been a refuge for sketchy manufacturers who were unable to compete in places like Greensboro. And as always, Liberty politicians remain desperately grateful for these people, who often leave town in the middle of the night, with lots of debt in their wake.

Even during the eighties, manufacturers coming to Liberty struggled to find experienced wood workers and upholsterers. Tom Ferguson, a cost accountant from High Point who built a $10M per year furniture business, often complained that he was running an insane asylum, so damaged were the older hands who still knew how to operate the lathes and sanders.

Given what has occurred here since then, I’m not sure standing up a competitive bespoke manufacturer of any kind is even possible, anymore.

Worse, the current fad of manufacturers flocking to nascent area megasites intent on building electrical vehicle components seems doomed to fail, if anything beyond conventional wisdom is considered. The forlorn hope that the future will be otherwise is a cruel joke on rural folk. But they have become used to broken promises and are increasingly seeing their continued survival as a matter of self reliance and dependence on each other.

Asheboro, in particular, appears to be an increasingly divided city, with Latinos taking most of the menial jobs and doing business among their own kind. I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime soon, a grassroots effort arises to limit the effects of these people. I’m told Randolph County has one of the highest gun ownership rates of any place in the country. Over time, this does not bode well for the Latinos.

Yesterday, my Latino neighbor, who is my age and I have known for over thirty years, returned home from working in a chicken processing plant near Pittsboro, as I was getting up leaves. We spoke for a few minutes. He was dirty and exhausted, as usual. He has spent his entire adult life doing work people like me would never consider. In that regard, he is truly a Great American.

Likewise, I recently saw the Chinese guy who is also my age and I’ve known for over thirty years, in Food Lion. He ran a chain of very successful restaurants in small towns and has recently sold them to people who aren’t able to find help. He now runs a restaurant in downtown Liberty, serving American fare.

“I got tired of cooking rice and chicken wings,” he said.

My brother is the maintenance engineer at one of the bigger plants in Liberty. The college boys who run the place barely bother speaking to him, anymore. They don’t know how to fix anything and generally see plant maintenance as a waste of time and money. He’s left several times, only to be asked to return. He regularly gets job offers from manufacturers in High Point, but abhors highway 62 North, where they are currently installing a water line.

Whereas hopelessly liberal Greensboro is hamstrung by liberal woman on city council, primarily concerned with funding their nonprofits, places like Liberty are run by retired teachers and other former professionals lacking any sort of real life experience. They are both embarrassingly subject to conventional wisdom and the hucksters who purvey it.

In Greensboro, they fell victim to the Boom Supersonic Ponzi scheme. Liberty politicians are betting on Toyota manufacturing EV batteries at the megasite. Meanwhile, Toyota is using old car batteries to supplement solar and wind energy solutions.

One need only look to DH Griffin’s investment in the Chatham County megasite as evidence that the Randolph County megasite is doomed.

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