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Avondale Mills Closes Doors, Sells Some Facilities

Citing unfair global competition exacerbated by a disastrous train derailment in January 2005 outside one of its plants in Graniteville, S.C., Monroe, Ga.-based Avondale Mills Inc. has closed its doors after 161 years of operation. The closure affects 4,000 associates - many representing the second, third, fourth or even fifth generation of their families to have worked for the company - at its various facilities in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.

In a letter to Avondale associates announcing the decision to go out of business, G. Stephen Felker Sr., chairman, president and CEO, saluted those associates, writing: "The people of Avondale have performed well. I am proud of our long record of success and am grateful to our associates and friends for their efforts. Events occurred that have taken our future from us. I regret that I could not prevent it."

One of the leading and most respected textile manufacturers in the United States, Avondale hadin recent years invested more than $300 million to upgrade facilities and equipment in an effort to bolster its competitive position in a difficult global environment. But the train accident, which caused a chlorine spill that took the lives of several Avondale associates and caused insurmountable damage to the plant, ultimately derailed the company itself. As Felker also wrote in his letter: "We have worked hard for a year and a half to recover, but the damage is too great. Without the train derailment and chemical spill, we were challenged. With it, we were destroyed."

Avondale has actively been seeking buyers for some of its facilities and has already sold three linked ring-spinning plants to Parkdale Mills Inc., Gastonia, N.C. - a move that has saved 700 jobs.

Also in the works is a possible sale of Woodhead Plant in Graniteville, a specialty coating operation for such applications as boat covers, tents and awnings. According to Stephen Felker Jr., manager, corporate development, several parties are interested in the plant, which he described as a "very unique" operation.

July/August 2006