Published 12:00 am Friday, September 27, 2013

SALISBURY — Gildan Activewear, which is hiring 200 workers for a $43 million yarn-spinning plant on Heilig Road, could invest another $127 million in Rowan County and create 184 more new jobs.
Gildan, a Montreal-based company, is the mysterious “Project East” discussed earlier this month at the Rowan County Board of Commissioners meeting. Gildan has spent about $10 million so far on the massive renovation of the former PGT Windows plant and now is considering building a second textile facility next door on vacant land owned by the county.
The T-shirt and underwear-maker announced plans earlier this week to open two more facilities in the southern United States. A notice posted on Rowan County’s website for a public hearing on an economic incentive grant confirms that Gildan is considering Rowan for one of the plants.
Robert Van Geons, executive director for RowanWorks Economic Development Commission, said he’s optimistic.
“We’ve always been hopeful that there would be future expansion in the county,” Van Geons said.
To seal the newest deal, Gildan is asking county commissioners to donate about 28 acres of land, as well as return 75 percent of the new tax revenue the company would generate for seven years. Commissioners will hold a public hearing Oct. 7.
Van Geons said it’s his understanding that Gildan wants to build two facilities in one state, either North Carolina or another southern state. In a press release, Gildan said it expects to invest more than $200 million in 2014 and 2015 for the construction and ramp-up of two new facilities, in addition to the renovation underway in Rowan.
Gildan said the future yarn-spinning plants would support projected sales growth and further reinforce the company’s position as a global low-cost manufacturer.
The facilities will be built with the most modern product technology, which will continue to differentiate the product quality of Gildan branded products, the company said in the press release.
Total investment in Gildan’s U.S. yarn-spinning facilities, including the current plant in Rowan County and the refurbishment and modernization of the company’s open-end facilities in Clarkton and Cedartown, Ga., is expected to create more than 700 jobs.
The company likes the L-shaped parcel that runs next to and behind the former PGT building, Van Geons said.
Because the deal involves two North Carolina communities as well as possible state incentives, “there are a lot of moving parts,” he said.
“They are looking at a major investment,” he said. “A lot relies on the governor’s office, the state Department of Commerce and Rowan County and the other potential project in North Carolina.”
Van Geons said he’s compiling an economic impact analysis that he plans to submit to county commissioners today.
So far, Gildan has hired 30 people at the formerly shuttered 400,000-square-foot PGT building and plans to add 170 more employees in the next six months. Production is set to begin in early 2014.
Gildan said it would provide further details of its capital investment program for fiscal 2014, including expansion plans, when it releases fourth-quarter financial results.
Gildan is a leading supplier of basic apparel, including T-shirts, fleece, sport shirts, socks and underwear. The company sells its products under a diversified portfolio of company-owned brands, including the Gildan, Gold Toe and Anvil brands and brand extensions, as well as under license agreements for the Under Armour and New Balance brands.
Gildan is also one of the largest suppliers of branded athletic, casual and dress socks for retailers in the US. In addition to socks, the company is developing Gildan as a consumer brand for underwear and activewear.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.