Uniform maker brings new jobs to Lawrence Co.

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 26, 2001

MONTICELLO — A new industry is moving into the old KellwoodManufacturing plant.

Saiyed Rabbani, owner of American Apparels, Inc., has confirmedhe will locate a branch of his business in the plant.

“When we learned recently of the grant awards, that’s when hisdecision to move forward with the project became final,” said PaulMcLain, director of the LCCDA.

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The county has been awarded two major federal grants to assistthe company in locating here. It received a $500,000 grant from theU.S. Community Adjustment and Investment Program (USCAIP) forcounties impacted by large job losses caused by the North AmericanFree Trade Agreement. In late August, it also received a $450,000Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the U.S. Department ofAgriculture.

Both grants will be used to establish a revolving loan fund andto provide technical assistance, machinery and equipment forAmerican Apparels.

American Apparels is based in Schaumburg, Ill., and specializesin made-to-order clothing and uniforms. They plan to beginoperations later this year.

McLain said the company should provide solid employment for manyof those laid off when Kellwood Manufacturing closed its doors forthe final time in November 2000. More than 330 employees were laidoff in phases that took more than a year.

“I think this will have a tremendous positive impact in that itwill provide jobs for many of the laid off Kellwood workers andindirectly spur on some more retail activity in the county,” McLainsaid. “When people have jobs they have more disposable income andfeel more comfortable about making expenditures than when they arereceiving a short term source, such as unemployment benefits.”

Many of the Kellwood workers have found jobs since the lay off,but have had to travel great distances to work, adding more cost,time and inconvenience to their jobs. The impending closure of aclothing manufacturer in Magee will put many of these out of a jobonce again.

Those people already possess the skills needed to work atAmerican Apparels, which will hire between 40-50 people initially.In addition, many of them took advantage of training coursesoffered during Kellwood’s closure and those computer skills couldcome in handy with the new company.

“I am proud that many of the Kellwood workers participated intraining opportunities available to them following the lay offannouncements,” McLain said. “A number of them became students atspecial computer classes offered by Co-Lin and the Lawrence CountyVo-Tech Center.”

The computer skills will be appreciated at American Apparels,McLain said, because while Kellwood worked from designs created atthe home office, American will handle many of their designsin-house.

Rabbani has been attending trade shows to market his concept ofhigh quality, American-made uniform items.

“He’s aggressively submitting bids for uniforms and clothingitems,” McLain said, to line up projects for when the plant comeson line this winter.

American Apparels arrival has been a long time in the planning.Monticello alderman Jerry Goode first alerted the LCCDA of thecompany’s interest in December 1999. Since then, the LCCDA, countysupervisors, Mayor David Nichols and many state and federalofficials have worked to see it come to fruition.

McLain was especially complimentary of Senators Trent Lott andThad Cochran and Congressman Ronnie Shows for their efforts.