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Aug 1, 2007

Company mum on possible sewing factory shutdown

Story PictureSomething is going on at the Williamson sewing factory … and it doesn’t look good. Rumours have swirled for months suggesting the imminent closing of the U.S. owned garment assembly plant but company officials, both here and in the United States, have refused to comment. There silence has merely served to heighten concerns that the facility will shut its doors.

When News Five called the factory over a week ago we were told that the only person authorized to speak was Williamson Dickie Manufacturing Company vice president for Human Resources, Marrett Cobb. Since that time we have called Cobb three times at his Forth Worth, Texas, office, explained to his secretary the nature of our inquiry, and confirmed that he has received the messages. We’re still waiting for him to return the calls.

Unconfirmed reports to News Five indicate that due to Belize’s relatively high costs of labour, utilities and transportation, Williamson Belize can no longer compete with lower cost operations in Asia and Latin America. There is reason to believe that the factory, which once employed as many as seven hundred and now has less than half that many workers, should have closed long ago. It was opened in 1960 following a visit to Belize by the company’s founder, Mr. Williamson, who came to British Honduras on a hunting trip. Having greatly enjoyed his holiday, he asked his hosts what people here did for a living and remarked that his company employed many manual workers in the United States. Following negotiations with First Minister George Price, economic concessions were granted and the factory near the airport was built. Since that time it has exported millions of Dickies brand garments, particularly overalls … and at the same time put bread on the table for thousands of Belizean families, many of them single parent homes headed by women. Williamson-Dickie is a family owned corporation that employs six thousand three hundred people worldwide. It bills itself as the world’s largest manufacturer of workwear.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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