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Vidalia Mills gears up for fabric demand

VIDALIA — Vidalia Mills recently laid off approximately 40 of its employees temporarily as the company works to meet market demands, factory officials said.

Bob Antoshak, senior advisor and director of marketing and communications for the denim manufacturing facility in Vidalia, referred to the layoffs as temporary “growing pains” caused by a lack of demand for the factory’s yarn product and a much higher demand for its denim fabric.

Two weeks ago, Vidalia Mills had approximately 120 employees and cut their staff down to 83 people as of Friday, Antoshak said.

“We’re actually bringing some people back Monday to work in different capacities than before,” Antoshak said. “Business is fine and we’re not going anywhere. Our business has been twofold and our denim business has been really on fire and our yarn business has not.”

Antoshak said new machines for weaving various other types of denim fabric that were unable to be shipped due to the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to arrive in January, at which time the factory will need more workers.

“We have all of this new equipment being brought in that we’re in the process of getting set up but the speed of it has been slowed down by the pandemic,” Antoshak said. “The amount of demand for our denim has been quite astounding.”

By July 2021, Vidalia Mills expects to more than double the number of employees, Antoshak said, adding the industry would work to hire back the same workers and more.

“January we’ll have another 50 hires, half of which will be for spinning but on a different type of spinning equipment,” Antoshak said.

By July, Antoshak said the industry would bring in an additional 150 employees for cutting and sewing to make finished jeans.

The factory currently only produces fabric and materials, he said.

Vidalia Mills has occupied the former Fruit of the Loom factory in Vidalia since company officials purchased the 900,000 square foot facility from the Town of Vidalia in 2018.

Since then, the factory has undergone renovations, had new equipment installed and began producing a limited amount of product near the end of 2019.

Heather Malone, director of Concordia Economic Industrial Development District, said she is not concerned about Vidalia Mills meeting their commitment to provide 300 jobs in the Miss-Lou. 

“They’ve had to do some temporary layoffs at the plant due to some reorganization and reconfiguration of their equipment and meeting the needs of the customers in the industry,” Malone said. “We still have complete confidence in the project. As a new startup, we expect some starts and stops. They are a new business and there are a lot of moving parts. Considering that they’ve had to start up in a COVID-19 environment, we are fortunate that they have not had to shut down.”

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