Kelly’s Kids closing Jonesville operation

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 16, 1999

JONESVILLE, La. – On Dec. 15, Kelly’s Kids will move sewing operations from its Jonesville plant to Mexico and Central America, and remaining operations will move to the company’s Natchez plant in April 2000 due to global competition.

According to company President Lynn James, 95 people will lose their jobs and another 40 will be moved to Natchez. Also, Jonesville will lose its biggest manufacturer, one that has been in the area for several years.

&uot;It’s going to be a big economic problem,&uot;&160;said Gary Odom, Jonesville’s mayor pro-tem, who received word of the closure Friday after weeks of rumors. &uot;A lot of people here worked for them.&uot;

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In a statement released Friday, James called the move &uot;the toughest decision in all my years.&uot;

&uot;The North American Free Trade Agreement and … lower labor prices globally have laid the foundation for what is happening at Kelly’s Kids today,&uot;&160;James said.

&uot;We are one of the last of the domestic apparel manufacturers. … We have resisted for a long, long time, but increased competition has simply left us with no choice but to hop on board.&uot;

The area still has a handful of industries, such as Calhoun Bend Mill, a maker of food mixes, and Catahoula Manufacturing, a net company.

Still, Chip Rogers of the Macon Ridge Economic Development Region said the Kelly’s Kids move will have a big impact on the Jonesville area.

&uot;It certainly will be difficult to make up for those jobs,&uot;&160;Rogers said.

But having a large number of skilled sewing workers in the workforce could attract a new sewing operation to the area, he said.

&uot;It will be an opportunity for us to work (Macon Ridge’s) contacts in private industry to try and locate another company there,&uot;&160;Rogers said. &uot;And that’s what we will be seeking to do.&uot;