Omega Apparel of Smithville has been awarded contracts to produce new Army Service trousers and skirts for the U.S. Defense Department which will result in the creation of 112 new jobs here. The contracts are for five years and total approximately $40 million. The new jobs are expected to increase payroll for the operation by $1.8 million.
Hiring should begin within two weeks.
The announcement was made Monday by Dick Chase, President; Brian Roberge, Chief Financial Officer; and Chris Roberge, Operations Manager for Omega of Smithville.
Chase says Omega, which currently employs 86 workers, is excited about it's expansion plans. "The new contract will involve hiring production operators, sewers, cutters, material handlers, and clerical staff, about 112 jobs forecasted. We'll have a contract that will produce 176,000 new trousers for the Army in this contract. The garment is called the Army Service uniforms. The Army has chosen to go away from the traditional green that everyone is familiar with and has seen and are transitioning into this new garment. By October 2014, everyone (Army) will be in that new garment."
Omega currently operates out of the two old shirt factory buildings downtown, on either side of Mountain Street. One of those buildings is used for cutting and sewing and the other for warehousing. After a renovation, one of the facilities will be for cutting and warehousing and the other for sewing.
"This has been a very interesting contract for us", said Chase. Because of the expansion, we've had to increase the size of our sewing facility. Currently we have our cutting operation within these four walls (building on the west side of Mountain Street). We're going to have to renovate our building across the street (east side of Mountain Street) and spend a quarter of a million dollars of renovation costs to bring that building up to speed and put our cutting department in that building. Then we'll take that other square footage we have here and add that sewing operation to this existing facility. We will start hiring operators, production people and staff within the next two weeks."
Chase says Omega, which has been in operation since 1994, also produces uniforms for other branches of the military. "We currently have contracts for the Army, and Navy. For the Navy, we have a men's dress trouser and that garment has been made in Smithville since 1988. So every enlisted sailor who goes into the Navy has a broad fall trouser made here in Smithville. We also have the women's Navy slack, both in white and the new black. Then we have the Air Force skirt, Marine Corps skirt, both in green and blue, the mens and women's khaki trouser, the Air Force dress uniform skirt for the women."
All U.S. military uniforms have to be manufactured in the United States or U.S. territories under federal law.
Chase says Omega was in competition with several other states for the contracts. There were ten other bidders for the jobs. "Our ability to win this contract didn't just come from having an exemplary past performance with this company and our participation. This has been a community effort. Smithville Mayor (Taft Hendrixson) has been involved. (County Mayor) Mike Foster has been involved. The county commissioners have been involved. Without their participation in helping us find ways to get our costs to a point where we can be competitive, we might not have gotten this contract. It took some real hard effort on everybody's part to bring it here to Smithville. We were competing against Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico. We knew they were bidding on this. We beat them out because we were able to be competitive both in pricing and in our past performances"
Brian Roberge said other places made offers for Omega to relocate but company officials wanted to stay here. "Jobs are very competitive and many other states are giving a whole lot more to the industries in their states. We were offered quite a bit to move, but we started this program here with Mike (Foster) and his leadership of this county and he made it possible for us to stay here and bring these jobs here."
Chris Roberge added "We're excited to be able to bring 100 new jobs to Smithville. The company has worked hard for fifteen years in this community to make sure that we could provide as much opportunity inside this community as we can. We want to continue to do that and not just for five years, but hopefully for ten, fifteen, and twenty years into the future."
Smithville Mayor Taft Hendrixson said Omega's announcement is reason to celebrate."I'm certainly glad to see that they have gotten this new contract and the approximately 100 new jobs will absolutely be good for our community, especially in these economic times. The military is always going to clothe their soldiers, so that's something we're glad we've got."
County Mayor Mike Foster expressed his appreciation to Omega Apparel and to others who have helped them prepare for this expansion. "We want to thank all the people who have had anything to do with this especially Chris Roberge, Dick Chase, and Brian Roberge. For a company that's been here for fifteen years, they've got a really good track history. They're already providing jobs for 86 people here and this will be another 100 plus. It adds another $1.8 million to the local economy. The best thing about this is it's a five year contract and based on their past performances, it should be ten or fifteen year contracts. It gets some of the county and city buildings renovated and brings new life back down town. I want to thank Don Rigsby from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. He helped put a lot of this together. I also want to thank the Cumberland Investment Corporation, the county commission, and the county industrial development board for their help."
(Pictured above left to right: County Mayor Mike Foster, Omega President Dick Chase, Omega Operations Manager Chris Roberge, Omega Chief Financial Officer Brian Roberge, and Smithville Mayor Taft Hendrixson)