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Owner of former Fab-Knit plant back in business
[February 16, 2006]

Owner of former Fab-Knit plant back in business

(Waco Tribune-Herald (TX) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Feb. 16--Bob Landon closed his Fab-Knit garment plant last March and laid off 205 people.

He says he had no choice because financial problems were nipping at his heels.

"I emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on a Friday and filed for Chapter 7 protection the following Tuesday," said Landon, speaking by phone. He called the experience "awfully humiliating." But Landon is back in business, so to speak.

He has opened Fabnit Team Uniforms at 1617 N. Valley Mills Drive. The name is spelled differently, and this is not the Fab-Knit that folded.

No longer does Landon have a staff that makes athletic uniforms as did the 205 people he let go.

"We went overseas to Taiwan, Pakistan and the Dominican Republic," he says. Workers in those countries make the uniforms, which then are shipped to Colorado for silk-screening and lettering.

Accounting and administrative functions also are carried out in Colorado, says Landon, because his partner in this venture, "a gentleman from Taiwan," already had operations there that Landon did not want to duplicate.

Landon's four-person staff oversees customer service and sales operations.

The sales team targets Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, hawking sports team apparel to schools and to "mom-and-pop" retail operators who may supply the local Little League teams, for example.

"We're really just getting started, receiving inventory, calling on schools and writing orders," says Landon. "We're moving in stages, but it's working." But it's not like the days when Fab-Knit made all of Baylor University's sports uniforms. At one time, every school in the now-defunct Southwest Conference except Texas A&M University bought practice or game jerseys or pants from Fab-Knit. Even the Dallas Cowboys bought gym shorts and practice jerseys from the company.

Landon said competitive pressures began to wear on Fab-Knit. Other garment makers moved overseas to save money on labor costs.

"It's tough to make money in the United States," said Landon, adding he can offer schools 30 percent better prices on uniforms made overseas.

When he closed his plant last year, Landon told the Tribune-Herald he sympathized with his employees. He said he did all he could to keep the operation running.

Jay Powers, with Powers Embroidery, said Wednesday he hired several Fab-Knit sewing machine operators when he built a new plant at 2825 Gholson Road and increased the size of his crew by about 40 people.

Landon said several former employees used the shutdown as an opportunity to get retrained.

Rene Clayton, who is the rapid response coordinator for the Texas Workforce Development Board locally, said employees "who lose their job through no fault of their own" qualify for relocation and retraining assistance.

Landon acknowledged that employees were not paid for a week's work at about the time the plant closed.

"That includes me," said Landon. "The bank would not release the money." The former Fab-Knit factory at 1415 N. Fourth St. now belongs to the city of Waco, which bought the building to house several city operations.

Fab-Knit also had been known as Reebok Team Uniforms because the company in 1997 entered into a licensing agreement with the industry giant.

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