Byline: Eric Wilson

NEW YORK — London Fog Industries Inc. said Wednesday it will close its Baltimore rainwear-sewing plant on June 6. The operation was an attempt to demonstrate that outerwear could be manufactured in the U.S. at rates competitive with foreign suppliers.
The plant, which employs 281 persons, was opened in January 1995 with financial incentives from the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland, including a $500,000 grant from the state. The plant had closed once before, in October 1994.
London Fog officials characterized the plant, its last domestic manufacturing facility, as an “experiment” to determine whether a domestic facility could offer retailers Quick Response to orders and compete on cost with off-shore contractors. However, the company said, the venture proved too costly to continue.
The plant’s reopening was facilitated by grants and rent relief from Baltimore and Maryland, by a wage-reduction agreement with the plant’s union employees — represented by UNITE — and London Fog’s investment of $1.6 million to reengineer the plant and retrain employees.
Apparel manufactured in the Park Circle Industrial Park plant accounts for roughly 5 percent of London Fog’s overall production, said Lynne MacFarlane Borges, executive vice president of human resources. Sourcing will be transferred to London Fog’s existing offshore contractors.
Manufacturing the rainwear offshore costs $10 and $20 less per unit, depending on the type of apparel, MacFarlane Borges said, although she could not say exactly how much the company would save by closing the plant.
London Fog will continue to pay rent to Baltimore on the site for the term of its lease, which expires June 30, 1999. MacFarlane Borges said the company is working with state and local officials to assist the displaced workers in finding new jobs and to determine a function for the factory.
London Fog continues to operate distribution centers in Eldersburg, Md., and Martinsville, Va., where employees are also represented by UNITE. The company also owns Pacific Trail, a Seattle-based maker of outerwear and activewear, and operates 120 factory outlet stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. In all, it employs more than 1,600 workers and has sales of about $300 million.
A spokeswoman at UNITE’s headquarters here said she couldn’t comment immediately on the development.

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