HAVERHILL — Yesterday, more than 300 employees of Southwick Apparel, Haverhill's newest and largest manufacturer, stopped sewing the pieces of fabric they turn into fine men's suits and Navy officer uniforms.
They all wanted to hear what Gov. Deval Patrick had to say when he visited the new facility in the Broadway Business Park to celebrate both the company's 80th anniversary, and a new beginning.
"What a great day," Patrick proclaimed, drawing a standing ovation by a large crowd that included local, state and company officials. "Welcome Southwick to Haverhill."
Less than a year ago the company, then located in Lawrence, was on the verge of closing and having its operations moved overseas. But then it was bought by Retail Brand Alliance, the parent company of Brooks Brothers, to which Southwick has been supplying suits to since 1947.
The governor told the crowd that a concerted effort between the city and the state, along with training grants and tax incentives, made it possible for Southwick to move to Haverhill earlier this year — and into a spacious, modern facility.
He said Southwick's commitment to continue operating in America during these difficult economic times offers "a reason to hope."
"We thank the employees for helping save these jobs," Patrick said. "We would not want to lose this from the Commonwealth or from America."
Patrick said Southwick's investment in Haverhill will provide real and lasting benefits to the regional economy and the state's manufacturing industry.
"Today is a defining moment for all of us," said Southwick Chief Operating Officer Joe Antista. "Generations, all the people that worked here, my parents included ... it was all in danger of slipping into the annals of history."
Antista talked about the bright future Southwick now has, thanks to the vision and commitment of Claudio Del Vecchio, chairman and CEO of Brooks Brothers.