DAYTON — The oldest manufacturing business in Rhea County — and the last remaining textile mill in Dayton — will shut down by the end of the year.
Kayser-Roth Corp., plans to idle the last of its knitting and sewing machines here at the end of next month and cease all operations in December, ending a century-old business that began as the Dayton Hosiery Mill in 1913.
"It's the end of an era, and I'm honored to have worked with such a good group of people here," said Bob Wisener, the plant manager in Dayton who has worked at Kayser-Roth for the past 36 years and came to Dayton in 1989 after closing down another mill in Harriman, Tennessee. "Unfortunately, our orders have been decreasing over the past three to five years to the point where logistically it just makes sense to consolidate our operations elsewhere."
The shut down will affect the last 85 employees of the Dayton mill, which in the 1980s at its peak had more than 500 employees when the company operated more than 400 knitting machines. The plant takes raw yarn and knits, sews, dyes the yarn into women's hosiery sold under the the Calvin-Klein, Hue and No nonsense labels.
The Dayton mill, which includes nearly 200,000 square feet, was built in 1955 when the Chester H. Roth Co. purchased the Graysville Hosiery Mill on Main Street and relocated the Dayton facility.
The Dayton mill is the smallest of the four remaining Kayser-Roth hosiery plants. Most of the production now done in Dayton will shift to Kayser-Roth's bigger and more modern plant in Lumberton, N.C. once the facility here is idled later this year.
Kayser-Roth gave the state of Tennessee the required 60-day WARN notice of the plant closing in late August and the state's rapid response team is already moving to aid workers who will be displaced by the plant closing. Most of those still employed at the mill have worked at the plant for many years "and this is home for most of us," Wisener said.
Dennis Tumlin, director of economic and community development for Rhea County, said the mill closing is unfortunate. But he said other new industries in the area are hiring workers and most of the displaced employees should be able to find other work, if they decide they want another job in Dayton.
"La-Z-Boy is almost always hiring and we've had success in recruiting new businesses that will soon be adding workers," Tumlin said.
Last year, Dayton landed the biggest new industrial investment in Rhea County history from Nokian Tyres, the Finnish tire maker that is building a $360 million plant that will eventually employ more than 400 workers. La-Z-Boy also has expanded its innovation center and Coil Design Corp., recently announced plans to move its headquarters from New Jersey to Tennessee by acquiring the former Goodman Manufacturing plant in Dayton. Coil Design is investing $3.4 million in the plant and plans to hire 70 workers over the next two years.
Kayser-Roth also plans to try to sell its plant in Dayton next year after the mill closes.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340