Plant Closure?

Just three years ago Choctaw Manufacturing in Silas had more than 300 workers. Now, it barely has 40.

"This is the first time we've had to shut down to this magnitude in 53 years," said owner Malcolm Utsey.

Founded 53 years ago by his parents, Utsey says over the years the company has supplied clothing mainly for the military. The problem now is that even on the verge of war, he says the government is not buying.

When this happened in the past he says the company would turn to civilian contracts. However, he says because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, also known as NAFTA, this is often no longer an option.

"You can't find clothes made in the USA anymore," said Utsey.

In fact, he showed us that the shirt he was wearing was made in another country, China. However, he says he's not alone.

"If you look at the label on your clothes and I'll bet they're not made in America either!" said Utsey.

So, I took him up on his challenge and sure enough my jacket was made in the Dominican Republic.

With government work lagging and most civilian garment business transferred overseas, Utsey says he has been forced to default on a business loan. In all, the amount owed is more than a half million dollars. As a result, he, his workers and the business are being evicted.

"The banks have gone overboard but they've got laws too which they have to follow," Utsey said.

With an eviction date set for March 11, the business is moving back into its original building in downtown Silas. With this change in location Utsey says he's also exploring the possibility of changing his product.

According to Utsey he has the skilled labor force and equipment to make such things as seat belts, seat covers, floor mats and pieces for air bag assembly. The problem now is getting the contracts, something that he says will not be easy.

"Well, right now I'm not getting my hopes up!" said Utsey.

Wednesday night at 6 and 10 we'll tell you about other options Utsey is exploring.


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