Vidalia Fruit of the Loom plant closing, 167 jobs to be lost

Published 2:04 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2016

VIDALIA — The Miss-Lou stands to lose 167 jobs as the Fruit of the Loom distribution center plans to permanently close its doors after more than 20 years in Vidalia.

Martin Mills Inc., a subsidiary of Union Underwear Company, announced Wednesday it will permanently close Vidalia Apparel.

The company will offer various employment services with the assistance of the state’s dislocated worker unit, the company said in a statement.

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“This decision is in no way a reflection on the efforts of our employees,” Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tony Pelaski said in the statement. “We thank all our dedicated employees for their service and encourage other area employers to give these excellent workers every consideration for employment opportunities.”

In a letter filed with the Concordia Parish Clerk of Courts, Union Underwear Company Vice President of Distribution Donald R. Watts says the first jobs will be terminated no sooner than July 10.

Concordia Parish Economic Development Director Heather Malone said her office was notified of the closure Wednesday. Malone said the area would no doubt feel a big impact.

“It is definitely going to be a huge impact on our community,” she said. “Fruit of the Loom has been one of our larger private employers in the region, and employs folks on both sides of the river and other parishes and counties. We hate to lose them that’s for sure. In addition to the jobs lost, we’ll see an impact from taxes lost … and having their presence here in the community is going to be truly missed.”

Malone said local officials would have the opportunity to meet with Fruit of the Loom officials to explore any opportunity there may be to keep the distribution center open.

If the closure is unavoidable, Malone said local officials would work with the company to develop a marketing strategy to make the property an asset on the market.

Concordia Parish Police Jury President Jimmy Jernigan said he was unsure what the parish could do to stop the closure, but said he wants to work with Malone and Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland to see if anything can be done.

“I hate it,” he said. “I think it’s going to have a big impact, and 167 jobs, that’s a lot of jobs,” he said.

Copeland did not return requests for comment.

Vidalia Apparel opened in 1995 and is housed in a 1-million square foot building in the Vidalia Industrial Park and distributes Fruit of the Loom’s casual wear and intimate apparel product lines.

In 2014, the company laid off 150 workers in a permanent reduction of its workforce.