By Eileen Bailey

Daily Journal

AMORY - Red Kap Industries in Amory will close in March, leaving 215 employees without jobs, the company announced Thursday.

Gary Williams, director of employee relations at Red Kap's Nashville office, said the 215 employees at the Amory facility are being laid off but will work until the plant closes in March.

Red Kap also announced layoffs at other plants in Northeast Mississippi. At the Tupelo Red Kap division, 17 employees will be laid off and 125 employees will be laid off at the Booneville facility. Both plants will remain open. Those reductions are expected to take place sometime between now and March.

Chuck McPherson, vice president of human resources with Red Kap in Nashville, said a total of 464 employees in Mississippi and Georgia will be affected by the reduction. Red Kap, which is a subsidiary of VF Corp., produces occupational apparel, such as uniforms.

McPherson said a decline in demand forced the company to make the reductions. The company enjoyed a good first quarter but saw a reduction in demand in the remaining three quarters.

"We kept waiting and waiting for an increase so we could keep people on," McPherson said.

In recent months, other apparel industries in north Mississippi also have announced closures. In early December, Oxford Manufacturing announced it would be closing its doors in February. In November, the Fruit of the Loom-owned Panola Mills plant in Batesville announced it would close at the end of December.

According to statistics from the Mississippi Employment Security Commission, more than 6,000 jobs in apparel manufacturing have been lost statewide in the last year.

But the job loss in Amory is even harder felt because this is the second industry to announce its closure in the last three months, said Keith Blaylock, director of the Economic Development Partnership in Amory. Late in 1995, Simmons Furniture announced its closure and the loss of jobs to 350 people.

For November, Monroe County's unemployment rate was at 12.1, up four points from October and the highest rate in Northeast Mississippi for the month.

Red Kap has been a part of Amory since the early 1980s. The plant, which was once owned by Coy Glenn, was purchased by Blue Bell Industries in 1972. Red Kap was a part of the Blue Bell Industries, which was purchased by the VF Corp.

"Red Kap has been important to Amory and Hatley," Blaylock said. The Hatley plant of Red Kap was closed during the last year. "We regret their decision to leave at this time, but we realize that the apparel business is seeing a decline in demand," he said.

Blaylock said the Economic Development Partnership is obligated to help those who will lose their jobs by accelerating recruiting efforts to attract more industries to the area.

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