The sewing machines will be humming at the Maryland Clothing Manufacturing Inc. factory in East Baltimore like no other time in its 71-year history.
Following some trying times that threatened the private company's existence, the manufacturer of military uniforms said yesterday that it has been awarded its largest contract ever, a $22.5 million pact to produce nearly 270,000 Army Class A uniform coats.
The contract not only safeguards the jobs of the 125 workers at the East Madison Street plant, said August Piccinini Jr., the company's president, "but we expect to hire between 50 and 75 new people as we gear up our production line to fill the new orders."
He said his company expects to start hiring almost immediately, which he said could be good news for some employees of the Gleneagles Inc. plants in Towson and Bel Air. Gleneagles, a clothing manufacturer, has announced plans to close by June, resulting in a loss of 300 jobs.
Maryland Clothing will be looking to hire sewing machine operators, pressing operators and hand sewers. Mr. Piccinini said his company would be seeking experienced workers but would provide some training.
Like most other military contracts, the award to Maryland Clothing is not in a lump sum. The initial award of $7.3 million is for 89,172 uniform coats in the first year. The contract also contains annual options of $7.5 million and $7.7 million for a similar number of coats over the second and third years.
Typically, Mr. Piccinini said, the company produces 55,000 uniform coats a year.
Although the contract was awarded in mid-January, Mr. Piccinini said yesterday that he was not sure until recently that his company would actually get to make the coats.
A competing company, Cavalier Clothing Co. of Jamaica, N.Y., protested the Army's award to Maryland Clothing, arguing that jTC the award should have been priced on a per-coat basis, as opposed to a single order for the full production run. Mr. Piccinini said Maryland Clothing's bid was lower no matter how it was calculated.
Such protests, he said, usually take 4 1/2 months to settle. "I'm not sure we could have lasted that long," Mr. Piccinini said. Because the Army order was so large, he explained, it would have been difficult to bring in civilian or commercial work to keep the factory operating. The plant would not have had the capacity to do both the military and commercial work once the dispute was settled.
"With a lot of help from people like Senator [Barbara A.] Mikulski, [Representative] Helen Bentley, Congressman [Kweisi] Mfume, [Representative] Ben Cardin and Mark Wasserman [secretary of the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development]," he said, "the protest was settled rapidly, and that's what kept us alive."
To avoid any misunderstanding, Mr. Piccinini added, "I won the contract on my own. I don't want anyone to think we got any special favors -- not that we wouldn't take them -- but none was offered." He said the congressional help was to speed the protest process.