Sewing Up Deals in Harford

December 04, 1992

The resurrection of the former Gleneagles Co. menswear plant in Bel Air signals another coup for Harford County economic development. It is also a welcome expansion of clothing manufacturing in Maryland, rather than another contraction.

Remarkably, the reopening of the facility by J. Schoeneman Inc. will occur without the closing of another plant and layoffs somewhere else in the state. And laid-off Gleneagles workers stand first in line for the new jobs, which are expected to pay about the same wages as the raincoat factory did.

For nearly a half-century, the Gleneagles raincoat plant was a stable employer of skilled workers in Bel Air. Some 225 veteran employees were idled last June as the parent company decided to abandon the rainwear market.

But the recently modernized plant on 3.5 acres was attractive to several buyers. A bid by After Six formal wear to relocate there fell through, then J. Schoeneman stepped in to buy the venerable Gleneagles name and the lucrative Christian Dior label for production in Bel Air. (Ironically, it was the loss of the Dior license by Gleneagles that some observers linked to the plant's summer closing.)

The acquisition saw the merger of two century-old Baltimore clothing names, Schoeneman and Gleneagles, that had passed into hands of national menswear conglomerates. J. Schoeneman's headquarters is in Owings Mills, but it hasn't produced clothing in Maryland for years.

The new owner plans to employ 125 people by next February, giving preference to ex-Gleneagles workers and agreeing to operate under a contract with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. That certainly helped seal the deal, under which the state will provide a $135,000 loan and state and local governments will chip in $40,000 for retraining. Employee retraining is needed because the Schoeneman plant will turn out men's outerwear and sportswear, in addition to raincoats.

Harford filled another vacant plant this week. The J.M. Smucker Co. bought the bankrupt Chesapeake Beverage Corp. facilities in Havre de Grace to bottle its line of fruit juices for the East Coast market.

The Smucker acquisition will create another 85 jobs and a solid national firm in place, only a month after the old plant closed. That quick turnaround again demonstrates the county's aggressive marketing, as well as its increasing attractiveness to a wide variety of businesses.

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