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Md. Clothing gets $7.5 million Army coat contract


Maryland Clothing Manufacturing Inc. has been awarded a $7.5 million contract to produce topcoats for the Army, which will keep the sewing machines at its East Baltimore factory humming for at least the next year and a half and have the "help wanted" sign on the door again.

"Not many factories are doing this well," August Piccinini Jr., president of the company, said yesterday as he talked of plans to hire between 20 and 25 people when the plant gears up to fill the order.

The contract, awarded by the Defense Personnel Support Center in Philadelphia, calls for the production of 89,172 Army Class A uniform coats. They are to be delivered by April 1995.

An option in the contract for another $7.8 million order could push production of 2,000 coats a week into 1997.

After nearly going out of business in 1991, Maryland Clothing has seen its fortunes turn around. Mr. Piccinini said employment has grown from about 60 to 160 workers over the past two years, and the company has taken a big bite out of the debt it incurred during the lean years as it posted large losses.

"We came real close to going out of business," he said. "We ran up a tremendous debt and we're still paying it down. We reduced our outstanding debt by two-thirds over the past two years," to about $240,000. The privately owned company had sales of about $7 million last year.

The big turnaround came in March of last year, when the company won a $22.5 million contract to produce nearly 270,000 Army topcoats. It was the largest contract in the company's 73-year history.

Mr. Piccinini said part of the company's good fortunes has to do with the tough times that forced some competitors out of business.

One of those competitors was a government-owned clothing factory in Philadelphia that closed earlier this year.

The military contract has pushed the factory's production capacity to the point that Mr. Piccinini says the company has had to turn away topcoat orders from Jos. A. Bank Clothiers and Jacob Siegel Co. in Philadelphia.

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