Joint Statement on Polartec Malden Mills

Mayor Michael Sullivan of Lawrence, a Republican, and I have issued the below statement on Polartec, formerly Malden Mills. Our statement stems from our concerns about this critically important company.

As the primary elections for the Fifth Congressional District seat vacated by former Congressman Marty Meehan draw close, Democratic and Republican candidates are debating many important issues. The War in Iraq, Global Warming, Universal Health Care, Immigration and Tax Relief are national issues that deserve discussion. But all of the candidates must also remember that there are several local issues that are of equal importance to the cities and towns that comprise the Fifth District. For Methuen and Lawrence, the predominant issue is the continued prosperity of Polartec, LLC, formerly Malden Mills Industries.

Many of the candidates are familiar with the plight of the century-old textile mill. A staple of the Methuen and Lawrence communities in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, Malden Mills fell on hard times in the early 1980’s and was forced to declare bankruptcy. Unlike other mills in the area that closed or moved out of state, Malden vowed to stay in the Merrimack Valley. With the advent of their popular Polarfleece performance fabric, Malden was able to pull itself out of bankruptcy and expand its operations. It opened plants and offices in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York, and Washington State as well as in Germany. But the heart and soul of Malden’s operation was always the Methuen/Lawrence plant, which through the years has employed thousands of local residents.

Tragedy stuck Malden Mills again in December of 1995, when a devastating fire tore through the Methuen/Lawrence plant, injuring a dozen workers and destroying most of the plants operating capacity. Then owner Aaron Feuernstein, made national news when he vowed to stay in the Merrimack Valley and continued to pay his workers.

Within a few years he had built a new, state of the art textile manufacturing facility and Malden Mills was again up and running at full capacity. That prosperity was short lived, however. Sales figures could not keep up with the millions in debt service owed on the new facility and by 2001, Malden Mills found itself in bankruptcy once again.

Today, the mill has a new name, new owner and it’s once again turning a profit. That profit is in large part due to the military contracts the company was able to secure with the help of former Congressman Marty Meehan and other federal officials. Polartec works very closely with all branches of the armed forces and has played a significant role in development of the latest Gen III Extended Cold Weather Clothing System for the US Army. The new Congressperson must keep in mind that for the Methuen and Lawrence area, the continued success of Polartec is priority number one. The effect that a prosperous Polartec will have on our local economy cannot be overstated. As Mayors, we have pledged to do all that we can to insure that Polartec stays in the community and is successful. We now challenge all of the Congressional Candidates to take the same pledge.

In the coming weeks we encourage the candidates to engage in a dialog and articulate their plans regarding Polartec and other Valley manufactures. We can assure them that the voters in the Methuen/Lawrence area are eager to gauge their commitment before they cast their ballots on September 4th.

William M. Manzi, III Michael J. Sullivan

Mayor of Methuen Mayor of Lawrence

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