After losing thousands of manufacturing jobs, Lynchburg is hoping your phone could lead to a turnaround. According to Region 2000, the economic development organization for Lynchburg and its surrounding counties, nearly a third of all manufacturing jobs were lost in the last decade.
What grew were specialized technology jobs, despite the loss of mobile phone giant Ericsson, which closed its plant completely in 2001, resulting in 4000 lost jobs.
"I would bet were going to grow 20, 30, 40 percent this year to be honest," says former Ericsson employee and CEO for Advanced Manufacturing Technology Inc., located just outside Lynchburg.
2011 figures to be another good year for AMTI. The company makes circuit boards and other tech products in its facility for a variety of clients, including some federal government contracts.
But it's a far cry from where many of its top employees were ten years ago, laid off from mobile phone leader Ericsson.
"There was four thousand people that were laid off essentially," says Hatch. "You were globally competitive one day and two days later, you're not."
Much of what is now Liberty University's North Campus used to be Ericsson's million square foot facility. Many of the engineers decided to stay in Lynchburg and open up their own wireless technology companies.
Innovative Wireless Technologies in Forest designs new ways to bring wireless to the battlefield, with remote GPS devices that can be shot out of grenade launchers. They also design motion sensor products used to protect the border with Mexico. Now they're selling technology to have better wireless access for workers in coal mines. The CEO is Eric Hansen, a former Ericsson engineer. He branched off before Ericsson moved out and when he wanted to expand, he had plenty of help to choose from.
"...Fortunate enough to cherry pick just a very seasoned and experienced engineering team from Ericsson," he says. "Folks that are committed to the region, committed to the area and wanted to stay in the area."
Tim Nash is Senior Program Manager at AMTI. Laid off from his job in August, he used to work for Ericsson as well ten years ago. So when looking for a job this summer, he dialed up his Ericsson friends to land his new job.
"Anything that you can possibly imagine to network to find a job," he says. "It was the Ericsson network, most definitely."
And because the people and infrastructure for wireless companies was already here in Lynchburg, most of the startups continue to expand, meaning engineering jobs will continue to be available in the future.
Region 2000, also hopes advances in Nuclear Energy and Pharmaceutical companies will lead to more job creation this year.