Byline: Scott Malone

NEW YORK — Guilford Mills Corp., one of the first major U.S. mills to advocate expansion into Mexico, said Monday it was shutting one of its two plants in that country, as well as one in Lumberton, N.C., at a combined cost of 280 jobs.
In disclosing the planned cuts, the Greensboro, N.C.-based company, which is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, said the strength of the Mexican peso has made its imports less competitive in price.
“While we saw that the Altamira [Mexico] operation had long-term growth potential, we needed to reassess our commitment there in light of the current economic environment,” John Emrich, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
The Altamira plant, with 180 workers, and the Lumberton facility, with 100, each made circular-knit fabrics.
Emrich said in a phone interview that the closure of the Altamira plant, which began operations in May 2001, leaves Guilford’s sole apparel fabrics production at American Textil, a plant in Mexico City that produces sportswear and lining fabrics. American Textil was Guilford’s first investment in Mexico in the mid-Eighties.
Over the past year, Guilford has cut its headcount by about 2,100 as part of an effort to cut costs and close underperforming plants. It has also pulled back from the highly competitive apparel industry, focusing instead on automotive and technical fabrics.
The company has hired Cushman & Wakefield to sell its Altamira plant.
Guilford filed for bankruptcy last month after working out the details of its financial reorganization with its creditors. The company expects to exit Chapter 11 this summer. The day the company filed for bankruptcy, chairman Chuck Hayes — who led the drive into Mexico — said he was considering retirement.

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