Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 7, 2014

Demise of apparel industry in Kentucky continues


The Independent

ASHLAND — The steady demise of the once thriving clothing industry in small Kentucky towns continues with the latest factory to announce it is shutting down being one of the largest: Fruit of the Loom has announced it is closing its last remaining plant in Jamestown, a move that eventually will see the elimination of more than 600 jobs in the small town near Lake Cumberland.

The reason for the latest closing is all too familiar: The company is moving its textile operations to the Central American country if Hondurus, where it can hire workers to do the same jobs that those in Jamestown have been doing at a fraction of the cost.

In a news release, the company said its decision was “to align its global supply chain to allow the company to leverage existing investments and meet customer requirements more timely and cost effectively.”

Cheaper labor

“This decision is in no way a reflection on the dedication and efforts of the employees in our Jamestown facility, but is a result of a competitive global business environment,” Tony Pelaski, the company’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a news release.

That’s the company’s way of telling the 601 hourly workers in Jamestown that they have been dependable, loyal employes who have done everything the company has asked to help it succeed. Unfortunately, even though garment workers are among the lowest paid factory workers in the United States, workers in Hondurus are willing and able to do the same thing while earning less than what the minimum wage is here in the U.S.

A steady decline

In the last three decades, we have seen the steady demise of the once-thriving garment industry that has included the  Corbin Ltd. plant in the Paul Coffey Industrial Park in rural Boyd County along with smaller clothing manufacturers in Olive Hill, Louisa and other small towns. While many Americans give lip service to buying American-made goods, those same people are eager to buy clothing made elsewhere because it is less expensive thanks to the lower wages paid factory workers.

Staying in Bowling Green

Fruit of the Loom plans to continue to maintain its corporate offices in Bowling Green, where it closed in factories years ago. While American countries can easily outsource factory jobs requiring limited skills to Latin America, China, India and other countries,  they continues to prefer executives and sales people born nd educated in the United States. Since many of Fruit of the Loom’s products are sold in the U.S., it is wise for the company to keep its business headquartered in the U.S.

As required by federal law, Fruit of the Loom said it will give its employees in Jamestown a 60-day notice before eliminating their jobs, and it has notified state and local officials “to provide any available assistance.” The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet said help would be available to workers searching for new jobs, starting training or enrolling in school and that local teams from the Kentucky Career Center would provide information about available state and federal assistance.

One thing is certain Those Fruit of the Loom workers who are fortunate to find new jobs will be working in a new field. Jobs in he apparel industry are rapidly becoming a thing of the past in Kentucky and they will never come back as long as workers in other countries are willing to work for much lower wages.