Originally created 06/01/06

Avondale shutdown is official



It's official. Avondale Mills Inc. will shut down operations by the end of July.

The board of directors on Tuesday approved a shutdown and liquidation of its assets, dashing any dwindling hopes of saving the company that employs 2,000 area residents.

"The final determination has been made," manager of corporate development Stephen Felker Jr. said Wednesday.

Last week, the company said the decision to cease operations was likely but did not commit to a closure.

"We had some outside financial advisers take that time to really study all of our options to give us a reality check," Mr. Felker said. "We had to give them time before we could make the final determination."

The bulk of the job losses will occur at the company's seven Aiken County facilities. The company's previously announced closure of Sibley Mill in Augusta is expected to occur by the end this month, resulting in 115 layoffs.

The Monroe, Ga.-based company operates 18 plants in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. Total employment is 4,000.

The shutdown will take place in phases, and some employees will stay on after the closures to tie up loose ends, Mr. Felker said. He said the company is in discussions to sell its Townsend facility in Aiken County to a textile company but declined to comment further.

A Securities and Exchange Commission filing Tuesday reiterated the company's position that the closures are the result of foreign competition and damages from last year's Norfolk Southern train wreck.

Avondale has a lawsuit pending against Norfolk Southern, claiming the chlorine spill caused by the crash resulted in widespread damage to its Graniteville facilities.

The January 2005 accident killed nine people, including six Avondale employees.

Reach Tony Lombardo at (706) 823-3227 or tony.lombardo@augustachronicle.com.