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Help available for displaced workers in Martinsburg

April 14, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Officials with a local unemployment office will work this week to help employees laid off from Royce Hosiery on Monday with job training and finding new jobs, a Royce Hosiery spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Barbara Rosenthal said around 75 people who work at the Baltimore Street hosiery manufacturing facility were laid off. The employees found out when they arrived for work Monday, she said from her corporate office in New York City.

Men's and women's hosiery will now be manufactured at a plant in the southern United States, she said. Saying the company is not publicly traded, Rosenthal declined to reveal its name or location.

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No plans are in place to close the Baltimore Street facility, which is home to a finance and IT department. Royce also will keep open a distribution and quality control center on Corning Way in Inwood, W.Va.

Around 100 people will remain employees of the company, Rosenthal said.

An ability to outsource goods and "stay competitive" prompted the layoffs. Management carefully analyzed the situation before deciding layoffs were necessary, Rosenthal said.

In October, Keystone Holdings LLC purchased the assets of Royce Hosiery, including its New York City corporate offices, for an undisclosed price.

Founded in Philadelphia in 1949 by Benjamin Sirota as a maker of high-end hosiery for specialty shops, Royce moved to Martinsburg in 1965.

It was among many textile companies in the Martinsburg area, including Interwoven Stocking Co., which had five local mills and was once considered the world's largest hosiery maker.

Other companies included Kilbourn Knitting Mills, Shenandoah Pants Co., Middlesex Hosiery and Perfection Garment. All eventually were either sold or closed as textile manufacturing moved south.

"This is the last textile in Martinsburg, which saddens me," said Bob Crawford, executive director of the Berkeley County Development Authority. "It's fortunate that they stayed as long as they did, and I'm delighted they do plan to keep the distribution center here in Berkeley County. But it's still sad."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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