HILDEBRAN — Gildan Activewear Inc. has announced it plans to close its operation in Hildebran and lay off all of its manufacturing workers.

The company made the announcement to employees Tuesday and sent a WARN (Worker

Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act Notice to Burke County officials.

The notice, addressed to County Commissioner Chairman Jeff Brittain, said the pending layoffs would affect all 100 manufacturing employees at the Hildebran facility, located at 9451 Neuville Ave. The date of the planned layoffs is Sept. 13, the notice said.

In addition to the manufacturing operations, the facility’s office also will close.

“We regret the impact this decision is having on the employees and their families in the community,” Garry Bell, vice president of corporate communications for Gildan, told The News Herald on Tuesday. “But it really is a response to changes in the marketplace.”

Bell said the company’s human resources teams are looking at relocation possibilities for employees at the Hildebran location, including its office administration employees. The company has yarn manufacturing facilities in Salisbury and Mocksville, he said.

He said the production capacity at the Hildebran location will be consolidated to larger, more modern plants in Honduras. That will reduce the company’s supply chain complexity, meaning it will be simpiler to have it in two large facilities, he said. The move will allow the company to adjust better to demands in the marketplace, Bell said.

Bell said the closing is a result of decreased demand for products made at the Hildebran facility. He said a portion of the decreased demand can be attributed to an increase in demand in the marketplace for less expensive polyester imports.

This is not the first time this year the company has shut down certain operations in Hildebran.

In May, the company closed its distribution operation and moved it to Charleston.

The company said it has notified the Rapid Response Team within the N.C. Department of Commerce so it can assist workers.

The notice said employees will be able to apply for open positions at other Gildan locations.

It was just about two years ago that Gildan, based in Montreal, Quebec, bought the Hildebran facility from Peds Legwear Inc. for $55 million cash.

In 2014, Peds announced it was investing $16 million and hiring 200 workers at its Hildebran location over a five-year period after a multi-year commitment from Walmart, with support of SelectUSA, a federal initiative to promote and facilitate investment in the U.S. Then North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory attended an announcement when Peds bought the Hildebran facility.

In June 2016, the Governor's Office and the North Carolina Department of Commerce announced the award of a $500,000 building reuse grant to Peds so it could expand the Hildebran location with the promise of adding 50 news jobs. Burke County and the town of Hildebran approved a 5 percent match to the state grant.

Hope Hopkins, director of business retention and expansion for Burke Development Inc., said on Tuesday no funds were ever disbursed to the Peds or Gildan from the grant. The state grant ended on June 23.

Sharon McBrayer is a staff writer and can be reached at smcbrayer@morganton.com or at 828-432-8946.

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