NEW YORK--At a time when many of its competitors have closed plants and cut back investments in domestic manufacturing, Delta Woodside Industries is investing in modernizing one of its facilities in Piedmont, S.C."This facility I would describe today as a midlife plant, and this will bring it right to the state of the art in quality and performance levels," said Bill Garrett, president and chief executive officer. "The whole idea here is very simple. It is to improve the quality of the product that we send to the customer and to lower our costs."The planned changes at the factory include installing high-speed air-jet looms and updating much of the yarn-handling machinery. The Greenville, S.C.-based company said it expected the update to be done by October.Garrett said the company hadn't nailed down the precise cost of the upgrade, but said it would run to "many millions of dollars."He described the moves as part of the mill's efforts to prepare for the phaseout of quotas on textiles and apparel among World Trade Organization members in 2005."The clock is running toward 2005, and the barriers are coming down, and we feel we have to be able to do our part to be able to compete on the worldwide stage. Obviously, we're only one piece of the end product. The garment has to be made at a competitive price, as well. We have to have the lowest possible costs that we can get to, with the understanding that we have a very strong dollar. We have great concern for the environment, and we are at a labor disadvantage."Delta Woodside, a maker of woven cotton fabrics, employs about 1,700 workers at six plants in the Carolinas. In the nine months ended March 30, the company lost $13 million on sales of $122.3 million. That compares with earnings of $1.5 million on sales of $175.9 million a year earlier.

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