'Going Home': Retraining Keeps Hope Alive in Upstate New York

PHOTO David Muir returns to Syracuse, N.Y. looking for economic solutions

It was daybreak along Route 20 and the rolling hills that line Onondaga County as I returned to my hometown, Syracuse, N.Y.

It is a proud but tested city. Reminders of hard times are scattered everywhere; shuttered factories, industries that sent their jobs overseas.

We stood last week on the hill that overlooks the skeleton of what once was the Syracuse China factory in the town of Salina. A producer of restaurant china, Syracuse China had operated in this region for nearly 140 years.

David Muir Returns to Syracuse, N.Y., for 'World News' Series

At its peak, Syracuse China employed 1,200 people. Tim Loucks spent nearly 20 years at the upstate New York factory. Loucks met his wife there.

Among them, Loucks, his father and his wife logged a total of 86 years of service at Syracuse China.

But Loucks learned last year he was being laid off. The company that owns Syracuse China, Libbey Inc., announced it was moving the jobs out of Syracuse.

"They think they can fool the rest of the world into thinking they're making Syracuse China [in Syracuse], when they're actually making it in China ... China," Loucks told me with a sad laugh.

We found this economic reality everywhere we went in Syracuse.

I returned to the former WTVH-TV studios at 980 James St., where I first wrote to the television station as a 12-year-old. My parents would bring me to the station on summer vacations to intern and I later would land my first job in broadcasting, anchoring the weekend news.

After devastating layoffs in 2009, the building is now for sale. It's a long way from those days when the station's popular jingle, "Stand Up and Tell 'Em You're from Syracuse," played regularly on local television.

And although that spirit is bruised, it has hardly disappeared.

Inside a refurbished factory in the heart of downtown Syracuse sits CNY Works Inc., a nonprofit organization helping the unemployed find a place for the skills they fear are no longer marketable. Rows of computer stations are full on an almost daily basis.

"You absolutely tell them all is not lost; that those jobs skills can be applied elsewhere," said Lenore Sealy, executive director at CNY Works Inc.

Scott Gray was out of work for eight months after his 20-year factory job soldering circuit boards was shipped overseas to China.

His biggest fear? That the skills he had developed in more than two decades would now be useless. "I didn't know where I'd use them. I was scared," Gray told us.

Then came a phone call from CXTec, a Syracuse company that takes old office computer networking equipment and refurbishes it before selling them to businesses that cannot afford to buy new.

Now CXTec is refurbishing laid-off workers, actually paying them to be retrained.

"Syracuse is like so many other cities where they had heavy manufacturing, has left, gone to China, and these folks are left with, 'What am I going to do?'" said Barbara Ashkin, vice president and COO of CXtec.

Workers such as Gray, who had 20 years of loyalty to his prior employer, are extraordinarily valuable, she said.

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