Possible deals fall through
Global Apparel is not planning to purchase the Tri County Shirt Factory in Salem as city officials hoped, and a second prospective deal to occupy the plant has also fallen through. The shirt factory closed its doors Nov. 26, and all 138 employees lost their jobs."Global does not have an offer on the table right now," said Mel Coleman, chairman of the Salem Industrial Development Corporation.After talks with Global broke down, Salem officials were heartened when a second prospect surfaced. Randall Lee, director of operations for Global, met Dec. 5 with potential investors from the Salem area.Coleman said the associate had approached the SIDC earlier about investing. But he said, "The SIDC really doesn't have any money to invest."While last week's meeting was not an SIDC function, individual directors on the SIDC's 9-member board set up the meeting.But two days later that deal was off, too. Mayor Gary Clayton, who serves on the SIDC, said Friday, "He (Lee) called me this morning and said he was withdrawing his offer. He didn't feel there was enough support for his proposal."Clayton said Lee offered to operate the plant if local investors would finance the purchase of the facility from Capital Mercury, the New York-based company that owns the plant."It was our general feeling at that meeting (Wednesday) that it wasn't going to work," the mayor confided.City officials had met earlier with Mark Savage, president and CEO of Global, who initially seemed optimistic about a deal."At some point Mark decided that this particular situation would not fit in with what they were doing elsewhere and he kind of backed off," Clayton said. "At that point Lee stepped in."Clayton said he is disappointed in the turn of events, having hoped for good news for the laid-off workers before Christmas. But Salem officials aren't giving up. Coleman said the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) is continuing to work with the city in seeking a replacement for the factory, as is the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives' own economic development group.Coleman said the Arkansas Electric Cooperative's team can focus its attention on communities such as Salem that have their own electric co-ops. "The AEDC has to look at all of Arkansas; they can't play favorites. But the Electric Cooperatives can," he said.The Salem Industrial Development Corporation is working with the city of Salem, AEDC, the Salem Chamber of Commerce and Fulton County to secure another factory to replace Tri County Shirt. Coleman remains confident their efforts will bear fruit."We still have a lot of faith that we're going to have someone in that facility manufacturing," he said. According to Coleman, Salem has two big advantages that should make it attractive to potential manufacturers -- an excellent plant and a ready labor force.Fulton County Judge Curren Everett said he recently walked through the facilities and was impressed. "The buildings are in real good shape," he said.A Capital Mercury spokesman said cheaper labor of foreign-made apparel had made it difficult for the company to compete. The company had already reduced the work force at the Salem plant by 30 in May. Then the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York injected additional uncertainty and hastened the reduction of the company's domestic workforce; Capital Mercury announced in September it was shutting down the Salem plant altogether. It also laid off 50 workers at Mar-Bax Shirt Company in Gassville, but that facility will remain open. The company also continues to operate a plant in Yellville.Capital Mercury has offered to lease the plant's equipment or sell it at a bargain price, according to Everett.