NBEDC, City Help Nutex Retain Nearly 35 Jobs

City Firm Receives ‘Nice Christmas Present’
By Aaron Nicodemus, Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — A dark cloud lifted for the 35 or so employees at Nutex Industries in the South End yesterday after the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

For months, the company had operated under bankruptcy protection, a double-edged sword that was the firm’s temporary salvation but could have meant a death knell if the U.S. Bankruptcy Court had allowed Citizens Bank to be paid, or had liquidated the company.

Yesterday, the bankruptcy court approved Nutex’s reorganization plan and its employees have their jobs. There is much work to be done, now that employees will not get a break between Christmas and New Year’s.

“It’s a big relief to all the workers,” said Bruce Rachel of Fall River, a manager at Nutex for the past 10 years. “The mood here had been kind of down, but we all figured we should stick it out, fight it out. It’s a big family here, and everyone’s happy today.”

Nutex hummed with the sound of looms weaving strands of brightly colored yarn. Located in a mill tucked inside the hurricane barrier on West Rodney French Boulevard, the company makes belts and other woven fabrics for apparel companies such as Wal-Mart, Land’s End, J. Crew and Eddie Bauer; for military uses, such as flame-resistant mesh for fighter pilots; and for medical uses, such as belts and harnesses used by nurses to transport sick patients. It manufactures belts used by the Boy Scouts of America. The company has been in business since 1980, and 10 years ago employed as many as 75 people.

But since 2000, the company’s customers began seeking cheaper alternatives in China, and half its business disappeared.

“Between losing business and downsizing, it has been a very painful process,” company President Andrei Klein said. “In the last six months, we managed to stay alive under tremendous duress. We have tremendously loyal employees, and loyal customers, but we didn’t have the money to buy raw materials. So we couldn’t deliver finished product on time.”

Emerging from bankruptcy protection will allow the company to use money lent to it from one of its largest customers to buy the yarn its machines turn into woven products. In four to five weeks, the company will be profitable again, Mr. Klein promised.

The company got some help in emerging from bankruptcy protection. One of its regular customers floated the company a loan; Mayor Scott W. Lang testified on the company’s behalf before the bankruptcy court; and Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Corp., promised to work on a tax increment financing plan and access to federal and state grants.

Joe Soares, supervisor of the weaving room, has worked at Nutex 21 years. He was worried about his job, he said, until yesterday.

“It was a nice Christmas present for everyone,” he said.

“Everybody is relieved and happy to have their jobs,” said Maria Rodrigues of New Bedford, an employee at Nutex for more than 19 years. “It means less people on the unemployment line.”

Jale Stone, a designer at the company for 19 years, said the company’s work force is older and it would have been hard for them to find new jobs.

“I’d have no place to go if we lost this,” she said. “It’d be a Stop & Shop bagger, I guess.”

Contact Aaron Nicodemus at anicodemus@s-t.com
Date of Publication: December 23, 2006 on Page A05