First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON -- In the recent tough economic times, business success has often been measured in the simple ability to remain open. Therefore, Tuesday's one-year anniversary of Alamac American Knits, a company born from the ashes of the bankrupt Lumberton Alamac Knit Fabrics plant, was even more meaningful for the company and its employees.
Alamac, formerly a Dyersburg Corp. plant under the name of Alamac Knit Fabrics, reopened on Oct. 1, 2001, after Dyersburg, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September of 2000, closed the Lumberton facility in July of 2001.
When Dyersburg liquidated the facility, the senior management, along with some investment venture capitalists, purchased the old company's assets and set up the new company, which continues as a knitting, dying and finishing plant.
Despite the dark cloud hanging over the economy, President Mark Cabral said the management never doubted the plant's ability to succeed.
“We didn't think it wasn't going to work,” he said. “We had a clear understanding of what we needed to accomplish, and we were very confident it was a plan that could be achieved. Things got tough, and we had to adjust accordingly. But never did we feel that it was shaky.”
The company celebrated the birthday with dinner and small gifts for its 335 employees, as well as meetings to bring everyone up to speed on the company's progress.
Cabral called the company's quick turnaround to reopen a “basically unheard of” feat. In one year, the company has more than doubled its starting employee base of 150. With about 90 customers of varying sizes, the company is a slimmer version of the pre-bankrupt Alamac, which had nearly 175 customers. But Cabral said the company has carved out those niche businesses that make sense for the company's survival.
“Part of our reorganization was to make certain that the customers we were selling to were viable customers and customers that would allow us to survive and make a margin,” he said. “Our customers manufacture garments that are being sold to both the industrial laundering market as well as to national accounts and career apparel in the uniform trade and the hospitality trade. These are the niche markets we've focused on.”
Cabral said the company is living up to the business plan that was established for the first year, and wants to keep adding to its employment base.
All of the company's workers are former Alamac employees and, Cabral said, the company will continue to rehire its experienced employees.
“That was part of our objective when we opened,” he said. “Our employees are the heart of the company.”
Cabral said that, before Alamac closed, the plant was making about 750,000 yards of fabric a week. Now, he said, it makes about 300,000 yards a week.
About 80 percent of the company's current customers returned to Alamac when the company went back into production, despite having found alternative suppliers during the company's two months out of business. Cabral said the company continues to attract new customers, as well.
“The long, rich tradition of Alamac exists here in Lumberton through the support of our employees,” Cabral said. “They helped us bring those customers back again.”
Cabral said that Alamac's fortunes can only continue to go up.
“We probably could not have picked a worst year to start up a company, with 9/11 making a major impact on the hospitality trade and then just the general uncertainty of the economy,” he said. “It was a rough year. Just like every other industry, we faced challenges, but we all hope the economy will strengthen and we should see our business strengthen as well.”
Cabral credits the company's success to the combined efforts of the community and local and state governments.
“It was truly a joint effort by everybody,” he said. “There was an overwhelming desire from everybody to see this thing succeed.”