American Apparel to reopen

Published 12:17 am Wednesday, March 5, 2014

American Apparel, Inc., a leading manufacturer of uniforms for the U.S. military, has announced it will soon reopen its doors in Opp after being closed for nearly a year.

In 2013, some 225 workers from American Apparel found themselves out of work after the company did not get a military contract it was expecting. The workers were notified in late April and were laid off in May.

According to information released Tuesday by American Apparel CEO Chuck Lambert, the company plans to initially employ 70 to 75 people in Opp, including as many former employees as is possible.

“Obviously, we want to utilize as many of the previous employees we were forced to lay off a year ago,” Lambert said. “Efforts are being made to contact as many of the previous employees as possible in an effort to ensure we are up and running with minimum delay.”

The news of the reopening comes as part of an agreement between American Apparel, Inc., Woolrich, Inc., and Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support to transfer the government contract currently held by Woolrich, Inc.

According to Lambert, the company will utilize its Opp facility to manufacture Marine Corps combat utility military trousers following a decision by Woolrich, Inc. to, “step out of the military uniform business and concentrate more on its commercial branded items.”

A concrete reopening date has not yet been announced; however, the news is a victory for, not only Opp, but surrounding communities, according to Covington County Economic Development Commission CEO Rick Clifton.

“Hopefully, this is just a start to what might be coming back,” Clifton said. “It’s a real shot in the arm for the community.”

Clifton said, not only does the reopening furnish jobs, but also sends a message of stability and the promise of growth to other businesses considering Covington County as a possible home.

“What we have here now is other people looking at our community, and when they see something like this happen, it says, ‘Hey something is going on here,’” he said. “That is what we are going to try to travel on. What we want to do is take this positive and just multiply the effect.”

Opp Mayor John Bartholomew echoed Clifton’s sentiment.

“This is great news,” Bartholomew said. “The main thing we’re after is jobs.”

Bartholomew also said he looks for the reopening to create a positive “snowball effect,” on the local economy.

“A lot of the workers came from Opp, and we’re hoping more people will apply,” he said. “Anytime you have people that have capital, it creates revenue and that’s good for the city.”

Both Clifton and Bartholomew praised American Apparel General Manager Peggy Henderson and the people of Opp for their continued efforts to reopen the facility.

“People stayed involved in Opp and never stopped trying to bring it back, and that’s what was instrumental in bringing the jobs back,” Clifton said. “You can’t afford to give up, and the people in Opp never gave up.”

Henderson said she is simply looking forward to getting back to business as usual.

“We just worked very hard to get it back to Opp, and we’re proud to have it back,” she said Tuesday.

Lambert said the Opp location’s reopening is certainly a positive step for the company as a whole.

“The contract will allow American (Apparel) to diversify its product and manufacturing capacity to meet the ever-changing environment within the Department of Defense,” he said.

The Selma-based company also has facilities in Alabama in Centre, Oneonta and Fort Deposit.