Schoeneman closing Bel Air plant

October 13, 1994|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Sun Staff Writer

Tough times in the apparel industry will cost more Maryland workers their jobs.

J. Schoeneman Inc., a 105 year-old manufacturer of menswear, said yesterday that it will close its Gleneagles raincoat factory in Bel Air before the end of the year and lay off about 110 employees.

"It was a tough decision," James F. Haneschlager, vice president of human resources at Schoeneman's headquarters in Owings Mills, said. "The union worked closely with the company to make it a viable operation, but we're going through tough times in this industry."

Mr. Haneschlager said the Harford County plant, which produces coats sold under the brand names Gleneagles and Christian Dior, will close in December because of declining demand for rainwear products and fierce foreign competition.

Noting that workers had already made wage concessions, Mr. Haneschlager said, "It was not the workers' fault. We have a loyal and dedicated work force. It was a market problem."

Last week, Plaid Clothing Group Inc., Schoeneman's New York based parent, signed a $250 million contract to buy Gruppo Finanziario Tessile GFT, Italy's third largest-clothing and textile company, creating the world' s largest tailored clothing manufacturer.

Mr. Haneschlager said Plaid's move "had no bearing whatsoever" on Schoeneman's decision.

Mark L. Wasserman, secretary of the state Department of Economic and Employment Development, called Schoeneman's announcement "a sad end to a noble experiment on the part of the company."

He was referring to the company's 1992 decision to take over the Gleneagles factory that had been closed by its previous owner, Hartmarx Corp.

Mr. Wasserman praised Schoeneman's president, James J. Stankovic, for his willingness to take the risk and attempt to reopen the factory and operate it "under the threat of ferocious competition from off shore."

The state and county had prepared a $150,000 loan for Schoeneman's use in acquiring the factory. It also provided the company with a $40,000 grant to train workers.

Mr. Wasserman said the grant cannot be recovered. He called it "a cost we are willing to absorb on a bet the plant might succeed." He added that it kept 110 workers employed for a period of time that would not have existed without the state's help.

Schoeneman never made use of the loan package.

Paul Gilbert, Harford County's economic development director, said the loss of 110 jobs will be painful, but he expressed hope that the blow would be softened by the opening of some new retail operations.

The difficult times in the apparel industry have taken a toll on Maryland economy in recent years.

Seven weeks ago, Schoeneman announced that it was closing its Owings Mills distribution center and was moving that work to its main factory in Chambersburg, Pa. The decision will move 55 jobs out of state.

The company, however, said it plans to keep its headquarters, which employs about 200 people, in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

And last month London Fog Corp. said it would close its plants in Williamsport and Hancock.

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