Special Report – Hardwick Getting New Technology
May 5, 2015
It has been barely a year since Hardwick Clothes was saved from bankruptcy – and now the company is getting state-of-the-art technology.
In an announcement at its headquarters Monday, Hardwick said it has signed a major contract to add 65,000 units of production over the next year and would soon use the latest German and Italian automation technology.
“The contract is for the production of 65,000 of highest-quality American-made suits for which Hardwick was specially selected due to their skill and recent upgrades,” said Hardwick CEO/President Bruce Bellusci.
The agreement is with one of the most
sought-after and best-known designers and, while confidential in nature due to the brands high profile status, it will more than double the volume of manufacturing at the 175,000 square-foot Hardwick facility.
The company has invested $800,000 in new equipment, ranging from specialized sewing machines to state-of-the-art cutting technology with the goal to increase production capacity and quality, as well as create more and better-paying jobs for the community.
“This means not only more jobs, but an overall increase in wages for all factory employees,” Bellusci said. “We told our employees we wanted them to have fun and make money. We’re having fun and now we’re going to make money. You’re going to see a lot of excitement here.”
He said employees have been told from projections to expect to make 20 percent more in this calendar year and as much or more next year.
Bellusci also noted the addition of a new, full-scale training program which has now been implemented.
Since the start of 2015, 40 new jobs have been created, bringing the total number of employees to 260 with an expected 80 more by year’s end.
Plans are for another $1.2 million to be invested over the next two years “to catapult growth and rebuild the Hardwick brand.”
Hardwick owner Allan Jones said that effort is already underway with updated labeling and product packaging.
“We are using a new selection of the finest fabrics from Italy and England, with each garment getting topped off with the best buttons available,” Jones said.
A new collection will launch this fall with Hardwick having secured more than 100 new accounts over the past few months including local stores such as Yacoubian Tailors, The Squire Shop, Bruce Baird and Johnson’s Men’s Wear.
Hardwick will also start a national radio campaign next week and will continue to pursue opportunities with national media outlets such as NBC Sports Group.
Jones repeated his belief in the employees of Hardwick are what will put the company back on top.
“They are the biggest asset the company has,” Jones said. “They have the experience of being in the business for years and years.”
“This is a heavy lift to save this company,” Jones said. “It is so competitive around the word. But the biggest asset that was not on the balance sheet was the skilled staff. We can’t find these sewers anymore. So we believe we can take this staff, with additional training, and by September turn this company around.
He also gave credit to Cleveland Utilities for its help and noted TVA has offered incentives for which Hardwick has qualified.
Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd was on hand for the announcement Monday, and praised Hardwick’s work.
“This is an incredible story,” Boyd said. “Thank you for saving this company and I’m sure it’s going to have a great future.”
The commissioner also took a tour of the facility and greeted Hardwick employees while watching them do their jobs.
During the visit, Jones told the media he would help the stable southern workforce at Hardwick to reach new levels of productivity by purchasing state-of-the-art German and Italian automation technology. Jones said the addition of the technology would make Hardwick the most modern sewing operation of its kind in the United States.