'Buy American' pledge gives kick to Ft. Payne economy - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

'Buy American' pledge gives kick to Ft. Payne economy

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Sock manufacturers are hiring more in Fort Payne, which is leading to better employment and income. Sock manufacturers are hiring more in Fort Payne, which is leading to better employment and income.

After years of decline, the hosiery industry in Fort Payne is beginning to see resurgence. Doors that were once closed are starting to open, thanks to America's largest retailer.

When Walmart announced a "Buy American" campaign, no one knew it would make a difference locally, but city leaders said they are now seeing results.

The parking lot at Renfro Corporation is much busier now than in years past. Walmart announced plans to put $50 billion in American-made goods on their store shelves in the next 10 years. Sock makers like Renfro and Cooper Hosiery are watching their orders go up, according to city officials.

Economic Development Director Jimmy Durham estimates some 250 jobs have been created since the fall to fill those orders.

"I think there have been probably four or five mills affected," Durham said. "I know of two that have reopened since they were closed a couple of years ago, which is great news for us. And then of course we're seeing expansion at some of the other mills, and they're adding more employees."

With less unemployment leading to more money, city officials believe that is slowly starting to turn fortunes around for everyone else.

"Just drive through town and look at every restaurant in town," said Mayor Larry Chesser. "Parking lots are pretty well full. Come down on a Friday afternoon, for instance, and try to go toward Scottsboro or Rainsville, and it's bumper-to-bumper."

Officials expect the trend to continue into the foreseeable future. Development officials said they recently got a call from a firm in Bangladesh inquiring about hosiery mill space in the area.

"They're looking back now to the U.S.," said Durham of overseas companies. "One, labor costs are going up in these countries, and also, what they have told me is the energy costs have gone way up in these countries, making our U.S. products a little bit more competitive."

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