Chemical-suit plant lays off 100 workers

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HARMONY (AP) -A Maine company that makes garments designed to protect soldiers from chemical and biological agents has laid off about 100 employees during the past eight months at its six locations around the state.

Creative Apparel Associates, owned in part by the Passamaquoddy Tribe, blamed the job losses on a cyclical slump in the market.

“We’re in a down cycle and it will probably be four to five months before we see any improvement,” said George Rybarczyk, company president.

He said the federal government has not been issuing the large contracts it once did for the chemical warfare suit worn by all troops.

Federal contracts account for 99 percent of the company’s output of garments that offer protection from the effects of biological contaminants such as anthrax and smallpox or toxins such as sarin gas, Rybarczyk said.

Rybarczyk said the layoffs affected the company’s factories in Eastport, Harmony, Dover-Foxcroft, Fort Kent, Belmont and Indian Township.

Creative Apparel, which has government contracts that run through 2012, has mothballed its Eastport factory but about 275 employees remain on the job at the other locations, he said.

Rybarczyk said equipment will remain in place at the Eastport mill in hopes that business will pick up and production can resume there.

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