September 29, 2006
September 29, 2006 - Wellman Inc. announced Tuesday it will shut down polyester fiber production at its Johnsonville, S.C., complex and concentrate the company's remaining fiber production at its 550-employee Darlington plant.
Wellman Inc. will continue operations at the Johnsonville site, where about 200 workers make nylon resins and extract oil from sheep's wool, said Michael Bermish, a spokesman for the company at its headquarters in Shrewsbury, N.J.
Johnsonville was the company's first South Carolina operation, opening in 1954. The plant had employed about 1,700 workers in the mid-1990s and about 1,000 workers in 2002. The closing will eliminate 350 jobs.
"We've been cutting back steadily," Bermish said.
The Johnsonville polyester plant grinds plastic soft drink bottles and converts them into chopped up polyester fiber for textiles. Most of the polyester staple is sold for fiberfill, some for apparel.
Both markets have been hurt by imports. First, imports of clothing cut into U.S. garment production, which decimated Wellman's direct customers, U.S. textile mills. Now China is building its capacity to make polyester fiber.
"The business has been going away," Bermish said. "It's hard to compete with low-priced Chinese imports."
Wellman was once a topmaker, however, they stopped combing wool in the late 1990s. Reprinted in part from The State, South Carolina