"Highly likely" that Avondale Mills will close its entire operation

Today, Avondale Mills announced it is "highly likely" that in two months the company will shut down completely.

The loss of Avondale Mills will leave a huge hole in the economy and life of Aiken County's Horse Creek Valley.

Two reasons were cited. One is international trade.

The other is the January 6, 2005 train wreck in Graniteville.

That day, two trains collided. One of them was carrying chlorine.

Nine people died; six were Avondale Mills employees.

The wreck forced thousands from their homes, and the lingering effects of the chlorine spill have taken a toll on the town.

About 2000 people in the Graniteville area work for Avondale. Closing would impact them and thousands of others.

Avondale Mills has grown and prospered through some of the toughest of times...but as News 12 was the first to report, their 150 year history in textile manufacturing will likely be coming to an end.

It's yet another blow for the town of Graniteville.

"It's going to hurt everybody here," says resident William Nix.

And tough news to swallow for Avondale Mills employees.

"The people who need to make money, there's no place for them to go," says Harry Beabout.

Monday morning, company officials delivered the news.

"Unfortunately today we have announced that Avondale anticipates closing its doors," manager Steven Felker, Jr. told News 12.

The oldest textile-manufacturing corporation in the country is preparing to shut down all of its plants.

"It's going to affect about 4000 people," Felker said.

Two thousand of them are local...people like Dan Ray Johnson, a 40 year Avondale employee.

"I don't understand why this company's shutting down like this," Johnson says.

Spokesperson and plant manager Steven Felker says the anticipated shutdown is beyond the company's control.

He lists international trade and last year's Graniteville train wreck as reasons for closing.

Felker tells News 12 chlorine from the wreck has been an incurable cancer to the company, constantly corroding the mill's equipment.

"Graniteville don't need that. There's a lot of people depending on these mills, and it just hurts," Nix says.

The mill is considered the driving economic force in Graniteville...and many who've lived there for years say the end of the mill could mean the end of Graniteville as they know it.

"I don't know, probably close down Graniteville," says Beabout.

"You think they'll have to close down Graniteville?" we asked.

"Eventually," Beabout said. "There's nothing here."

"It will be tough," Felker told News 12, "but I'm sure they will persevere and find a way to cope with this terrible event."

Avondale Mills officials say no definite decision has been made, but say it's quote "highly likely" that the plant will close by July 25. That's why they gave employees a heads up today. The company is considering other options, including possibly selling the mill, restructuring it, or liquidation.

Avondale Mills has been around since 1845. The textile company is based in Monroe, Georgia, and they have 20 plants across the southeast.

Avondale is a leading producer of denim, sportswear, work wear, coated specialty products, and quality sales yarns for knitted and woven fabrics.

The company employs over 5000 associates and has annual sales in excess of $500 million.

For more information about Avondale Mills, visit their website at www.avondalemills.com.