The Democratic frontrunner to take on U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell placed blame for the closure of Jamestown’s Fruit of the Loom factory squarely on the Republican’s shoulders Friday, citing past votes against legislation aimed to keep companies on U.S. soil.
The company itself said the global market forced the move while Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield said President Barack Obama’s energy policies and rising electric costs sent the company — and its 601 jobs — packing to Honduras.
Who’s to blame in the factory’s closure, announced Thursday, is the latest development in a contentious U.S. Senate race expected to pit McConnell against Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes this fall.
In a statement Friday, Charly Norton, Grimes’ campaign spokeswoman, pointed to McConnell’s previous votes against bills dating back to 2010 that would entice companies to stay in the U.S. and end tax credits for those moving abroad. Norton mentioned a jobs plan released by Grimes in January, in which the candidate said she would support tax incentives for businesses relocating to the U.S. and cutting breaks for those that move operations overseas.
“Kentucky’s middle-class families face continued economic uncertainty as Mitch McConnell supports tax breaks for corporations that send good Kentucky jobs overseas, including 600 jobs alone this year in Russell County,” Norton said in the statement. “Kentuckians deserve a U.S. Senator who will create and protect our jobs — not one who recklessly supports outsourcing hundreds of jobs to Honduras and refuses to offer a plan to help put our people back to work.”
An Associated Press report said Fruit of the Loom, based in Bowling Green, made its decision to align the “global supply chain to allow the company to leverage existing investments and meet customer requirements more timely and cost effectively.”
The plant will lay off its staff in phases beginning June 8 through Dec. 31, according to the AP.
“This decision is in no way a reflection on the dedication and efforts of the employees in our Jamestown facility, but is a result of a competitive global business environment,” Tony Pelaski, Fruit of the Loom’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in the AP report.
Allison Moore, McConnell’s campaign spokeswoman, said, “Alison Lundergan Grimes is once again showing her profound lack of understanding on the issues.”
Whitfield, of Hopkinsville, said in a statement he was disappointed “that President Obama’s EPA regulations have impacted the largest employer in Russell County.” Rising U.S. business cost was a factor in Fruit of the Loom’s decision to move operations to Honduras, according to Whitfield’s statement.
He highlighted his legislation that would allow companies to build new efficient coal plants, calling regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants “a de facto prohibition on building a coal plant in America.”
“We want to be able to compete in the global marketplace and the high compliance costs of recent regulations out of EPA are forcing companies overseas,” Whitfield said in the statement. “If our electricity costs rise due to excessive regulations on power plants that negatively impact our manufacturers, then those jobs and facilities will close as is happening with Fruit of the Loom.”