A new deal between Walmart and Renfro Corporation will create approximately 440 manufacturing jobs in Fort Payne.
Scott Markley, a spokesman for the big-box retailer, said the deal is part of Walmart’s January 2013 U.S. Manufacturing Commitment to buy an additional $250 billion in U.S. products to support American jobs over 10 years.
Renfro Corporation, a long time producer of socks and hosiery products for Walmart, is based in North Carolina but has had a manufacturing facility in Fort Payne since the late 1980s.
“The products that Renfro supplies to Walmart that are made in its U.S. factories include Athletic Works, Fruit of the Loom Work Gear and Dr. Scholl’s healthcare products,” Renfro CEO and President Bud Kilby told AL.com. “Both Walmart and Renfro share in the commitment for products made in the USA and this new arrangement was a result of that common interest.”
Kilby said Renfro began selling socks to Walmart in the late 1970s. As Walmart has grown over the years, so has Renfro, which now has 5,000 employees worldwide and 628 in east Alabama.
Renfro has already begun filling the new manufacturing positions in Fort Payne and will continue to do so through 2018 as the company’s capacity increases and Walmart’s product offering evolves.
“Our expanded program at Walmart represents meaningful growth in our business,” Kilby said. “We expect the offering to continue to expand at Walmart, resulting in continued job growth at our U.S. factories.”
Walmart expects to help create 1 million jobs by purchasing American-made, grown, assembled and sourced products through 2023. In addition to Renfro, the chain is working with California Innovations to move production of the Ozark Trail “super cooler” out of China to a factory in Atlanta, creating 350 jobs.
Edgewell Personal Care, which makes personal hygiene products, is also working with Walmart to create 272 jobs by bringing production from Canada to Delaware.
“We’re making a tangible impact on communities across America,” Markley said. “In the three years since we launched our initiative, we’ve seen factories opened, jobs created and American products added to our shelves in stores and online.”
Renfro is a global business, but has manufactured products in its own U.S. factories continuously since 1921. The company has other plants in Mount Airy, N.C.; Los Angeles; Cleveland, Tenn.; and Clinton, S.C.
Kilby said there are advantages to manufacturing in the U.S., such as lower energy costs, reliable labor and infrastructure, and closer proximity to the consumer market.
“We want to offer good jobs to people here in the U.S.,” he said. “This builds stronger communities and serves all of our interests.”