Originally created 03/15/97

New plant in Sylvania raises town's job hopes



SYLVANIA - This week's announcement that a dress-making plant will open in Sylvania was sweet relief in Screven County, where plant closings have eliminated more than 500 jobs in the past year.

"I was just about tickled to death," said Sarah Greene, Screven County Development Authority di-rector. "We've had so many plant closings. This will just put some folks back to work and make them feel good about themselves and about their county."

Loralie Originals, a California-based women's clothing manufacturer, said Wednesday that they will open a cut-and-sew plant in the Sylvania warehouse formerly leased by Ithaca Industries, which shut down in August.

The plant, which will make wedding dresses, evening gowns and other formal wear, is expected to create 125 new jobs this year, with another 125 jobs expected in the next two years.

Workers are renovating the plant, which is expected to be opened in the next two or three weeks.

Sylvania, a town of about 2,900 people, has been hit by a string of plant closings in the past year. Screven County's unemployment rate - which has approached 13 percent - nearly triples the jobless rate in Bulloch and some other surrounding counties.

Ithaca, a North Carolina-based apparel company, eliminated 272 jobs when they shut down in August to move the plant offshore. Warnaco, another textile mill, shut down in December, striking another 175 local jobs.

Midstates Automotive, which manufactured car parts, eliminated more than 100 jobs when it shut down early this year.

Screven County business leaders have been actively marketing the county-owned warehouse where Ithaca was housed since August's closing.

Ms. Greene said a phone call from Loralie, which is closing a similar plant in Redding, Calif., was a pleasant surprise.

"The vacant building was sort of what attracted them to us," she said.

Instructors from Ogeechee Technical Institute in Statesboro will help train employees in how to make the fancy clothing.

"This will be skilled sewing," Ms. Greene said. "It will be a little different than what we're used to here."

She said the company has given her no specific information on wages at the plant, but that she expects them to be higher than what's paid for typical cut-and-sew laborers.