RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- VF Jeanswear, the world's largest maker of jeans, will close a laundry and finishing plant in Winston-Salem that employs nearly 400 people and move the work out of the country, company officials said Monday.
The plant is the last major production facility in the U.S. operated by Greensboro-based VF Corp., the parent company of VF Jeanswear. The company began phasing out operations at the plant Monday and will close it in March.
"I would say we're the last major apparel maker to exit the U.S.," said Sam Tucker, vice president of human resources for VF Jeanswear. "From a manufacturing standpoint, you know, we held out here a long time."
VF Jeanswear makes the Wrangler, Lee, Rustler and Chic brands.
Layoffs will begin after the new year, and the plant will operate with about 60 percent of its current work force until it closes, Tucker said. Most of the work will be shifted to contractors in Central America, primarily in Costa Rica.
"From an operational standpoint, we thought we needed to move this facility closer to where the products are being made," Tucker said. "It was built to support plants hundreds of miles away," not those thousands of miles away.
The company still operates a small cutting plant in Alabama, he said.
Employees will be offered a package with some combination of severance pay, educational assistance for retraining, outplacement assistance and other benefits, officials said.
The company will also help look for a new tenant for the Winston-Salem plant, which opened in 1992.
"We'll try to market the building, ideally, to someone who will be able to come in and hopefully re-employ a lot of the work force," he said.
After the closing, VF will have 1,250 employees in Greensboro and 450 at its distribution center in Mocksville, Tucker said.
The closing announcement comes the same month VF Corp. reported that its third-quarter earnings rose 10 percent. Net income increased to $197.7 million, or $1.75 per share, from $179.6 million, or $1.57 per share, a year ago, the company said on Oct. 20.
VF shares rose $1.34, or 1.8 percent, to close at $75.97 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Market data is as of yesterday.
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