AUGUSTA — Gov. Angus King said Thursday that the president of the company that owns Waterville’s C.F. Hathaway shirt factory assured him the plant would stay open at least through midsummer.
King said he talked by telephone with Lynda Wachner, president and chief executive officer of the Warnaco Group Inc. in New York. She said the plant would remain open “greater than 60 days, probably greater than 90 days” while discussions with prospective buyers continue, he said.
Wachner stressed that low-priced competition from overseas and the increasingly casual trend in men’s fashions make it ever more difficult for a domestic manufacturer of dress shirts to succeed, he said.
Describing Wachner as “sympathetic but tough,” King said she promised to keep him informed of any major decisions affecting the more than 500 jobs at the factory.
“She’s clearly a bottom-line businessperson,” he said.
Despite record earnings in the first quarter of this year, Warnaco said Monday it intends to halt production at the nation’s oldest shirt-maker because of a declining demand. Hathaway, which also has plants in Puerto Rico and Ontario, has made shirts in Waterville since 1853.
King said he remains concerned about the intentions of prospective buyers, who he warned might be interested in buying the Hathaway name and making all the shirts overseas.
“I’d like to find a buyer that wants to make a made-in-America statement,” the governor said.