Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — The federal government is sending $3.4 million to Alabama for retraining apparel workers whose factories have closed in the last nine months.
While the Labor Department puts the number of apparel jobs lost at 6,089, the actual tally is approaching 8,000, said a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, who tied most of the job loss to competition from imports and companies going to Mexico, the Caribbean and Far East. The state now has 46,600 apparel workers.
“Alabama has been pretty hard hit. It’s not unlike the rest of the Southeast,” the spokesman said.
Alabama applied for the federal funding under the Job Training Partnership Act, listing the closure since July 1995 of 25 plants. Some have big industry names like Vanity Fair Mills, which shuttered two factories in December and one in March, employing a total of 1,700 workers; Fruit of the Loom, which in March closed a plant employing 372 workers, and Champion Products, closing one plant in January that employed 330 workers. Phillips-Van Heusen has closed five locations employing 1,167.
Also this month, Andover Togs closed an Alabama factory with 100 workers; Buster Brown Apparel shut down a plant with 320 workers, and Healthtex shuttered a factory with 355 employees, according to a state-provided list.
The spokesman said the federal grant will likely be used in part to train apparel workers for high tech jobs.
While many apparel jobs are being drained from the state, there are pockets of growth, said David Seagraves, executive vice president, Alabama Textile Manufacturers Association, representing the textile, fiber and apparel industries, which jointly employ 102,600.
Seagraves said existing Alabama apparel makers in the last year added 2,053 workers and new entries in the market created 1,299 jobs. He said one apparel company that has been expanding in the state is Russell Corp. — Fairchild News Service

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