In bankruptcy court on a hot July morning, a man in faded jeans was begging his attorney not to abandon his case.
Tim Beaver, a wiry mechanic with close-cropped hair, said he had invested a lot in a new garage near the courthouse in downtown Gastonia. The payments, along with other bills, a few months of slow business and the rising cost of gas had overwhelmed him.
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“I'm not a businessman,” he said, his voice cracking. “There's only so much money a person can make.”
Scenes like this one are playing out more often in Mecklenburg courtrooms, with bankruptcy filings surging as the slumping economy stretches businesses and individuals. Experts say the worst is probably yet to come, because each economic slide takes a few months to push people into bankruptcy.
There were 3,122 bankruptcy filings in the western district of North Carolina from January through June, up more than 11 percent over the same period last year, according to figures from the district bankruptcy administrator's office.
Chapter 7 filings – personal bankruptcies – were up 17.5 percent the first six months of the year.
Nationally, filings were up more than 26 percent the first quarter this year over the same period last year, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. Chapter 7 filings were up 34 percent the first quarter.