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Polo, now made in Rochester
Rochester, N.Y. -- Cheers and applause greeted the CEO of the iconic Hickey Freeman suit factory for an announcement that could help put the company on the path toward growth.
As part of Polo's "Made in the USA" initiative, the company has decided to strike an agreement with Hickey Freeman, allowing the suit maker to manufacture all of Polo's "Blue Label" suits, sport jackets and pants.
Prior to the deal, some of the Blue Label products were manufactured in Italy.
"We look at our strategy as more of a machine gun than a rifle shot," said Stephen Granovsky, Hickey Freeman CEO. "We'll soon be announcing even more deals that will grow the business."
In recent years, the company has been through two bankruptcies and three ownership groups, but Granovsky, the most recent CEO and owner, sayid the company is now stable and profitable.
"Our first objective is to get full employment with the 350 people in the factory," he said, referring to future growth from the deal with Polo. "We hope to grow the workforce by 15 to 20 percent and add 50 more workers by 2017."
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said a big step in making the deal possible was eliminating the wool tariff faced by Hickey Freeman as part of the recent Farm Bill.
"You had a huge competitive disadvantage," Schumer said, referring to Europe. "They imported suits where there was no tariff, but when Hickey did, there was a tariff."
The suits are expected to start being manufactured in Rochester as soon as June.