Coats and Clark – Strong and Steady

KK Snyder

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

There are a number of long-standing successful businesses in Albany that don’t often make headlines and seem to fly below the radar. Such is the case of Coats and Clark, a steady and somewhat silent member of the Good Life City’s industrial holdings.

Since 1947, Coats and Clark has provided hundreds of Albany residents with solid employment and good benefits, something that people just can’t take for granted anymore. And while the Albany plant on Clark Avenue is just a small sector of an international corporation with a presence in 67 countries, they are a business of which Albany can be proud.

Plant Manager Bobby Boone says that, while business remained strong last year in spite of a struggling economy, the company has seen some downturn this year but is hoping to bounce back. Rather than laying off employees, they are asking them to take some extra days off from time to time.

“The company historically has prided itself on having good employee relations,” said Boone, who joined the company 23 years ago. That policy has led to many of the company’s 300 employees staying on the job for decades, including the plant engineer with 40 years of service and some plant technicians with even more than that.

With an expansive history that reaches back nearly four centuries, Coats and Clark, worldwide, is known more as an industrial thread manufacturer, but has recently reorganized into an industrial group – selling to industrial manufacturers, and a craft group, producing consumer products for crafting.

In addition to the Albany facility and another in Douglas – which manufactures yarn to send to Albany for finishing, labeling and packaging, Coats and Clark also has a plant located in Toccoa, Georgia, said Boone.

The Albany plant includes a spinning operation and a finishing operation, producing products that include hand-knitting yarn sold under Red Heart - Coats and Clark’s premier brand – and crochet thread, sold under a number of different brand names, including Aunt Lydia and Royale.

“The hand-knitting yarn is the bulk of what we do; it’s our bread and butter,” explained Boone. The process takes bales of acrylic fiber and tow – a continuous filament of acrylic fiber – and spins them into yarn, twisting several plies together. The yarn is then steamed, cooled, wound into pull skeins and balls, labeled and packaged.

Raw materials come from Douglas, but also as far away as Turkey and Portugal. “There is no acrylic fiber manufacturer in the United States anymore,” said Boone, noting that companies such as DuPont, Monsanto and others no longer produce the fiber stateside.

Once the products are packaged, they are sent to the new distribution center in the former Delco Remy building on Holly Drive. From there they are shipped to retailers all over the country, including Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s and Jo Ann Fabrics.

While the loyalty between employer and employee has not changed during the years, technology certainly has. “It’s changed considerably,” acknowledges Boone. “But like any other company, we have a capital budget and work to upgrade our equipment. Of course, we don’t always get everything on our wish list.”

Coats and Clark’s employees are active in the community, serving as Partners in Education with Jackson Heights Elementary School, which shares a neighborhood with the plant. Employees participate in Red Cross blood drives, Memory Walk for the Alzheimer’s Association and last year donated food to needy families in the neighborhood.

Boone will someday retire from the company he is proud to represent. Until then, he looks forward to taking Albany’s Coats and Clark into the future with the same quality leadership the company has enjoyed for some 400 years.