Future of USA Fabrics

Concerns are mounting that the near future could mark the end of an era for the garment manufacturing industry in east Mississippi.

USA Fabrics in Quitman is one of the last vertical mills in the United States. Vertical mills are plants where all the work required for a product is done under one roof.

At USA Fabrics, all of the knitting, dyeing, cutting and sewing for the garments is done at one site. However, on June 15th of this year that all came to an abrupt halt because the owner says the plant's building was no longer feasible to use.

'It's an old structure. It doesn't meet code in some areas.'

Bill Ferrari owns USA Fabrics. He says the main problem is the leaky roof.

'We have water coming through on our electrical panel. We would need to fix that.'

In all, between 40 and 50, fifty-gallon buckets are scattered throughout the plant. The sole purpose of the buckets is to catch rain water.

The cutting room at USA Fabrics is currently covered with water. Many of the cutting tables have also been destroyed by extensive rainfall from the last two weeks.

Company owners say the leaking problem is so bad that when it rains, it looks like sheets of water are falling from the ceiling. To help soak up the water, Farrari says duffel bags stuffed with leftover material are placed on floors in work areas.
In the past, he says rainfall has even forced the company to close for several days.

'The moisture alone shorts the machines out and James (the plant manager) then has to come in and figure out what we can do to restart them. So, it is a real problem,' says Farrari.

'In the larger contracts we would have to agree to inspections of our facility,' says USA Fabrics co-owner, Andrea Farrari. 'We have to take a step back because of that. It's not a facility that would stand up to real strict inspections.'

When work stopped at USA Fabrics last month, 18 workers were left without a job. Within coming months company officials hope to put them all back to work.

'We've laid off with hopes of bringing them back by the first of the year. Hopefully, we can get something going by the first of the year by coming back in operation in a new location and to restart our operation here.'

At its peak there were 2,200 workers and 600,000 square feet to manufacture garments in Clarke County. Prior to USA Fabric's closure last month, those numbers had dropped to 40,000 square feet and 18 workers. USA Fabrics opened in Quitman ten years ago.

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