Lincoln County economic leaders, however, are optimistic that the game is changing and some of those jobs are returning to the area.
If so, it would be a dramatic change from recent trends, because North Carolina has lost more jobs than all but five other states due to the trade gap with China, according to a N.C. Justice Center released last week.
Of the U.S. jobs eliminated or displaced since 2001, 107,800 of those were from North Carolina, the report said. Only California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Florida have lost more jobs. These job losses represent 2.61 percent of total employment in the state.
The report also found that 1.9 million jobs, of the almost 2.8 million lost nationwide during the decade, were in the manufacturing sector, which accounts for the big blow to North Carolinaâ€™s economy.
Even as the report is coming out, however, things may be looking up again for manufacturers both locally and nationwide.
Barry Matherly, director of the Lincoln Economic Development Association, said the Lincoln County area has experienced a threefold reaction to the China trade deficit. Itâ€™s the third part that offers hope.
Initially, around 2000, many local operations closed or moved to China, he said.
Then, within the last couple of years, those companies that had managed to survive began to stabilize â€” with little loss or gain.
Now, Matherly said, many companies are focusing on â€œreshoringâ€ efforts, particularly within the furniture industry.
He cited the new Lincolnton Furniture Company as a good example. The Times-News previously reported that company founder Bruce Cochrane was optimistic that a rebound in domestic manufacturing operations was likely due to China facing a serious labor shortage and increased world consumption.
Matherly added that many companies that were able to buck the trend became niche businesses that focused on cost-control and quality, such as McMurray Fabrics in Lincolnton.
In contrast, regarding the potential for Chinese investment here, Matherly thinks itâ€™s certainly possible. He referenced Today Tech, a Chinese company that was located in Lincoln County for a couple of years before outgrowing its facility and moving to Mecklenburg County, as proof.
Matherly said efforts are being made by North Carolina officials to â€œbuild a better bridgeâ€ and bring direct foreign investment into the state, pointing to Gov. Beverly Perdueâ€™s upcoming trade mission to China.
Matherly believes, moving forward, there is definitely a possibility for other foreign companies to locate to the area.