Originally created 06/08/06

Plant sale could save jobs of 200



AIKEN - Avondale Mills Inc. has agreed to sell its Townsend plant in Graniteville, a move that will likely preserve 200 jobs that were thought to be lost.

The company will sell Townsend and two plants in Alabama for a combined $28 million, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week.

The buyer, North Carolina-based Parkdale Mills, "agrees to offer employment to substantially all of the hourly employees" at the plants it will purchase, the agreement states.

The Townsend plant, one of seven Avondale operates in Graniteville, employs about 200 people, said state Rep. Roland Smith, R-Langley, who has been working with Avondale officials to prepare for looming layoffs.

He said that he is familiar with the sale agreement and that it is "our expectation" that jobs at Townsend will be preserved.

Avondale has yet to find a buyer for its other six plants in Graniteville, which employ about 1,800 people. Those plants are supposed to close by July 25, and some layoffs already are occurring.

Repeated calls to Stephen Felker Jr., an Avondale spokesman, were not immediately returned Wednesday.

State and federal leaders have quietly been working behind the scenes to buffer Avondale's workers as they lose jobs. Graniteville was founded as a textile town in 1845, and many of its residents have never done any other kind of work.

Meanwhile, Mr. Smith and state Sen. Tommy Moore, D-Clearwater, ushered an amendment through the General Assembly June 1, the last day of the legislative session, that would give Aiken County more leverage to attract new industry.

House Bill 4419 would allow the county to offer interested companies $4,500 tax credits for every new job created. Right now the county can only provide credits worth $1,500.

Gov. Mark Sanford still must sign the legislation, Mr. Smith said.

"It will make us more attractive to companies looking to expand," he said of the amendment, which would remain in effect until 2008.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT:

The sale is expected to be finished June 30.