Renfro growth to add jobs
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Mar 08, 2013 | 1649 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An increase in demand for current and new product lines has driven a local manufacturer to renovate its Cleveland plant and lease additional distribution footage in a facility adjacent to the Michigan Avenue plant.

The renovation, necessitated by the addition of a new product line, represents an investment of $17.5 million in equipment and construction costs and the creation of 168 jobs over five years. The renovation and job creation is scheduled to be completed by January 2016.

Renfro Corporation CEO and President Andrew L. “Bud” Kilby Jr. said the company is a global leader in designing, manufacturing, marketing and selling legwear products. It is the licensee for leading brands including Fruit of the Loom, Dr. Scholl’s, Ralph Lauren/Lauren Polo, Copper Sole, Wrangler, Sperry, Russell, Jerzees, Spalding, Bike and Carhartt. Renfro also owns leading fashion brands K. Bell and Hot Sox.

“Renfro has been a corporate citizen of Cleveland for seven years and today’s announcement is exciting because it marks a new chapter for Renfro and the community,” Kilby said in a press statement released by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Renfro Corp., headquartered in Mount Airy, N.C., bought Charleston Hosiery’s business and assets in a deal announced in November 2006 as a continuation of the trend of consolidation within the hosiery industry.

Consolidation at Charleston Hosiery began in a big way in January 2005 with the announcement it bought Gateway Hosiery Mills Inc. of Chattanooga. That company’s operations were absorbed into the Cleveland plants. In August 2005 the move toward centralized operations continued when Charleston Hosiery announced plans to combine its two Cleveland plants into a single facility at its present site at 4405 Michigan Avenue Road N.E.

Renfro Corp. was founded in 1921 with 25 employees and has grown to employ 4,500. Charleston Hosiery was founded in 1939 and grew to employ 1,000 people before it was sold.

“We are grateful to the state of Tennessee and the city of Cleveland for the encouragement we have received to renovate, innovate and create new jobs,” Kilby said.

Gov. Bill Haslam congratulated Renfro and thanked Kilby for the additional investment and employment opportunities.

“We placed a renewed focus on helping existing Tennessee businesses like Renfro expand in our Jobs4TN economic development strategy, and this announcement helps us in our efforts to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs,” the governor said.

The governor’s Jobs4TN plan focuses on four key areas:

n Prioritizing the strategic recruitment of target industries;

n Assisting existing Tennessee businesses in expansions and remaining competitive;

n Supporting regional and rural economic development strategies; and

n Investing in innovation and reducing business regulation.

Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty said it sends a strong message about our state’s business-friendly climate when a global company chooses to expand in Tennessee. Renfro has manufacturing and distribution facilities in the U.S., India, China, Pakistan, Canada and Mexico with sales offices in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, The Netherlands, India and China.

“With one of the best balance sheets in the entire country, Tennessee has once again shown it is a solid choice in an often uncertain world economy. I congratulate Renfro on its expansion in Cleveland and appreciate the company’s investment in our state and its citizens,” Hagerty said.

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said, “Thanks to companies such as Renfro Industries, Bradley County has seen 875 new full-time jobs created since Sept. 1, 2010. It is encouraging to know that Renfro and several other industries here agree that expanding in Bradley County is a good investment.”

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said, “The Cleveland City Council and I extend a heartfelt thank you to the management of Renfro Manufacturing for their decision to expand production in our community. Our community’s first priority is to create an environment that allows the existing industry base to flourish and the fact that a member of the hosiery industry has chosen to reinvest here is a great testament to the quality of the workforce and the business environment we have all worked diligently to establish and maintain.”

Lisa Pickel, director of Existing Industry for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, said the company is a vital member of the manufacturing community that provides over 250 jobs to local residents.

“Their decision to reinvest in the facility demonstrates once again that Bradley County and Southeast Tennessee are a great place to do business,” she said. “Most importantly, it once again shows the world this region provides a world-class workforce that is up to any challenge and worthy of anyone’s consideration.”

Persons interested in applying for the new manufacturing positions should apply in person at the Athens Career Center or online at and click on the link for job openings.