Originally created 06/03/01

Phoenix rising



Less than a month after King Mill abruptly closed, leaving 306 people out of work, the textile plant will power up Monday under new ownership.

A quirky deal between the Augusta Canal Authority and Standard Textile brought the ownership of the land and physical plant to the authority, while Standard of Cincinnati, Ohio, will take over operations and equipment.

The company didn't take long to get things rolling either - applications for employment were being taken at the Georgia Department of Labor as soon as the announcement of the mill's reopening was made on Thursday. Standard officials say the plant will be operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week soon, churning out hospital blankets and linens, and other specialty fabrics for which it is known.

Augustans can cheer this turn of events that will bring life back to the mill and jobs to possibly several hundred people.

Standard, a privately held company that was started in 1940, was the top customer of the mill's former operator, Spartan International, of Spartanburg, S.C. The new mill owners have a good reputation with local textile workers, too, although the compensation packages for the new jobs have yet to be announced.

Curiously, it was one of the laid-off Spartan mill workers who got the ball rolling to reopen the mill. The day the mill closed, machine operator Wallace Boynton was driving to visit his mother at the hospital when he remembered reading in The Chronicle about the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce's annual Red Carpet Tour, where executives from other communities are shown around the city and told why Augusta is a good place for business.

Boynton, 32, and a second-generation mill worker, went out on a limb and called the mayor's office. Mayor Bob Young was out of town, and Boynton, who had worked at the mill since the age of 20, was pointed in the direction of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce. He might have felt brushed off at that point, but Boynton didn't give up. He called the chamber and spoke with Vice President of Economic Development Kevin Shea.

Boynton suggested to Shea that Standard Textile would be a good company to buy up the operation. Shea listened to the mill worker and the chamber lost no time in tracking down all the parties who could forge a successful deal.

Brokering an agreement like this is a big victory for the chamber of commerce, the city, the canal authority and the two private entities - Standard and General Electric Capital Corp., the creditor that forced the closure of the mill in the first place.

The agreement is an example of what can be accomplished in Augusta when entities leave their territorial differences at the door and work together for the greater good.

Finally, it's a testament to what one mill worker's good idea and persistence can do to help solve a crisis.