The recession has created hardships for individuals and families across America. Businesses have shuttered, homeowners have faced foreclosures and unemployment has marred recovery efforts. Now, in what may be a first, the nation's economic woes have led to the closure of an entire Nevada town.
As of June 20, Empire, a small mining town of about 300 people and situated about 100 miles to the northeast of Reno, will become a desolate ghost town. In fact, the community is even losing its postal code. Mail Online has more:
...the only thing remaining of the town, which was once home to the United States Gypsum Corporation, will be an eight-foot chain-link fence crowned with barbed wire sealing off the 136-acre plot and a sign saying Welcome to Nowhere - which has never proven so true.
Empire was a company town, completely built around the USG, which is the nation's largest drywall manufacturer.
The Christian Science Monitor explains that, since 1948, USG has been America's largest drywall producer. But, as the economy has sunk, so has the nation's need for building supplies. The company holds the title to the entire town of Empire, which includes only four streets:
The end of Empire began just before Christmas, when dozens of workers in steel-toed shoes and hard hats filed into the community hall for a mandatory 7:30 a.m. meeting. Mike Spihlman, the gypsum plant's soft-spoken manager, delivered the news to a room of stunned faces: Empire was shutting down. "I had to stand in front of 92 people and say 'Not only do you not have a job anymore, you don't have a house anymore,' " Mr. Spihlman recalled.
Until January, the town was as bustling as a four-street town can be. Now, it has gone virtually silent, as the majority of workers and their families left by the end of last month. Fortunately, many of these workers have been able to find work in surrounding areas, as the state's gold industry is healthy. Still, the quaint family unit that once existed in the town has forever been dispersed. The Christian Science Monitor's following description provides a lens into what life in Empire once was like:
For decades, Empire was largely insulated from the troubles of the outside world. Here, you could rent a company-owned home for $250 a month, or an apartment for as little as $110. Water, cable TV, sewer, trash, and Internet service were all provided on the company dime. Workers were awarded gold-colored construction helmets when they reached 25 years of service and wore them with pride. No one bothered to lock cars or homes. Kids had the run of the neighborhood, but were still in hollering distance come dinnertime.
This newfound ghost town, which famously boasts a prophetic "welcome to nowhere" sign, is just a piece of the recession's immensely large and complex fallout. Now it's just in pieces.
To see more pictures from Empire, visit the Christian Science Monitor.