Contract brings more jobs

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 30, 2003

The U.S. Coast Guard is about to get a whole new look. In the process, Selma will gain some much-needed new jobs.

The Coast Guard has signed a $15 million contract with American Apparel, Inc., to manufacture the Guard’s new uniform – dark blue shirt and trousers made of rip-stop poplin material. The year-long contract will allow American Apparel Inc. to produce 260,000 sets of uniforms.

According to American Apparel Selma Plant Manager Irene Winstead, the contract will also require creating about 20 new jobs.

“I’ve got to hire some more people,” Winstead said.

At a Thursday morning ceremony at American Apparel, Rear Adm. Ken Venuto – assistant commandant for human resources with the Coast Guard – said the new uniform will be used for both war and peacetime needs.

The Guard’s previous uniform has been around since 1975. Venuto said Guard members are excited about the change.

“It really hasn’t met the demands of the jobs of the Coast Guard,” Venuto said of the old uniform.

The new uniform will protect Guard members from hazardous environments and also be comfortable.

Joseph DeBlase, chief clothing designer for the Coast Guard, said the conception for the new uniform originated five years ago. The impetus for the uniform’s implementation was Sept. 11, 2001.

“The product that you make is really helping protect American lives,” DeBlase said to American Apparel officials Thursday.

Fabric for the new uniforms is expected to be in the Selma plant’s cut room by next week and fully in production in two weeks.

Winstead said the first stage of the uniform’s creation begins in the cut room. Under the eye of cut room manager Don Milhouse, employees will spread the garments out and cut them based on markers. Tickets will then be tagged to the material ensuring no mix-ups.

“You get the right color, right garment, right everything,” Winstead said.

From there, the material moves to the sewing floor – a massive room filled with almost 400 sewing operators. Moving down the line, the uniforms will be assembled bit by bit. Pockets will be sewn, flaps set and shoulders joined.

Winstead said she expects 1,000 Coast Guard uniform coats to be produced a day.