How Laid-Off Corporate Workers Are Becoming Free-Thinking Entrepreneurs What happens when you lose your job in a town where work is scarce? For many, the solution is to become an entrepreneur.
In the fall of 2015, when Marty Mann's boss at General Electric called him into the office, he knew his days at the company were numbered. For seven years, Mann had been a welder at GE's locomotive plant in Erie, Pa. Built just over a century ago, the 340-acre complex originally employed and housed thousands of workers, and defined the city's economic and social life. But layoffs had become common, and 2015 saw a downsizing of 1,500 employees. Mann was one. "Yeah, I was mad," he says. "You used me and then got rid of me. But when it's time to go, it's time to go."
Mann has lived in Erie his entire life, and everyone here -- his wife, kids, grandkids and friends -- knows him as a no-bullshit kind of guy. Middle-aged and meaty, he prefers oversize T-shirts and dirt-crusted work boots. His graying hair is rarely brushed, and his days are fueled by whole pots of sugar-saturated coffee, beer and drugstore doughnuts. But he's a talented welder. So upon being shown the door at GE, he began looking for another job. Nobody in his field was hiring locally. A buddy told him about an opportunity in South Carolina, but Mann couldn't imagine leaving his family behind. "What are you going to do?" he says. "Work in McDonald's? Be a greeter at Walmart? At GE, I was making between $33 and $40 an hour, plus benefits."