HomTex repays $1.5M, plus interest, to City of Cullman

Company to be largest domestic producer of disposable face masks in North America

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Cullman officials receive repayment of the loan made to HomTex in April. Left to right are Sen. Garlan Gudger, Councilman David Moss, Council President Jenny Folsom, Councilman Clint Hollingsworth, Mayor Woody Jacobs, Councilman Johnny Cook, Councilman Andy Page, HomTex owner/CEO Jerry Wootten and HomTex President Jeremy Wootten. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Textile manufacturer HomTex on Wednesday afternoon presented a check to the City of Cullman to repay a $1.5 million loan made by the City in mid-April to help the company begin production of filtered face masks at its facility in the city.

Jerry Wootten, HomTex CEO, said, “The temporary financial commitment by the community allowed us to make the down payment to hold the equipment when our bank and other financial institutions simply could not process a loan application quickly enough to secure the equipment. Once we had the down payment, we were assured no other company could jump ahead of us and buy the machines. HomTex had the time to work through a typical loan application and secure the entire $5 million for this project.

“We are here today to thank the city and the two industrial development boards. A minimum of 100 new jobs will be created in Cullman because of your trust in us. And maybe just as important, literally millions of people around the world will have better protection against this pandemic because you took a chance on a local company,” Wootten added. “Today HomTex is here to repay the $1.5 million loan with interest for a total of $1,505,041.67. Allowing HomTex to have the loan for 55 days made this all possible because we had the expertise and the building to make it happen.”

Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs said the support of the Cullman City Council and two industrial development boards is typical of the type of cooperative spirit that has made Cullman a leader in new and expanding industry in Alabama.

“Partnerships create great opportunity,” said Jacobs. “We had the State of Alabama encouraging us to take advantage of this opportunity and help make this project happen. We felt the risk was worth the reward for our community and state. I am proud we could make it happen but also pleased we are being repaid two years earlier than expected.”

Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman said part of the thought process on the state level was the need for masks in Alabama and the desire to reduce America’s dependence on foreign production of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

“The Department of Commerce and Governor’s Office was excited a Cullman company could potentially be the largest disposable mask producer in the U.S. and have a Made in Alabama label on every package,” he said.

From the fact sheet

  • HomTex is making a $5 million capital investment for production of face masks to protect against the coronavirus.
  • This investment will fund 15 automatic ultrasonic welding machines.
  • Installation of the machinery will occur at the HomTex manufacturing facility at 2125 Second Ave. SW, Cullman.
  • HomTex is scheduled to be in full production by mid-July 2020 with the capacity to produce and package 400 million disposable face masks per year.
  • HomTex Cullman will become the largest domestic producer of disposable face masks in North America.
  • New production lines will create 100 new manufacturing jobs in Cullman at an average wage exceeding $17.
  • The City of Cullman, Cullman County Industrial Development Authority and the Industrial Development Board of the City of Cullman loaned HomTex $1.5 million April 7, 2020 to make the down payment securing the equipment.
  • HomTex repaid the $1.5 million loan June 3, 2020, plus 2.2 % interest of $5,041.67, for a total repayment of $1,505,041.67.
  • In March 2020, HomTex converted 75% of its bedding production to a DreamFit washable, reusable cotton face mask.
  • The disposal face mask project is the second shift by HomTex to PPE production in 2020.
  • HomTex has manufactured and shipped nearly 1.5 million DreamFit BFE95 masks to date.
  • HomTex is a family-owned company founded in Cullman by Jerry Wootten in 1987 as a contract sewing operation.
  • Wootten still serves as CEO and his son, Jeremy, serves as president.
  • HomTex manages 350 employees at manufacturing plants in Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina from its corporate headquarters in Cullman.
  • Company showrooms are located in New York, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Cullman.

HomTex began production of its reusable DreamFit mask in early April.

At that time, Jeremy Wootten told The Tribune, “The main reason is that we not only saw a need, but it was becoming quite clear from speaking with local officials like Mayor (Woody) Jacobs and Dale Greer and Senator (Garlan) Gudger that the local industry and the state was not prepared, in the sense of having the face masks. The need was probably greater than we realized.

“We do a little medical business: we manufacture hospital pillows and we do a little bit in the fabrics. We were a little familiar with it and we knew there was going to be a need. But I think over the last week or two weeks, I think people didn’t realize how big a need, and we certainly didn’t. And then all the issues that surround what the Chinese is doing and what they’re allowing to come out of the country. I think one thing that’s become obvious is people have seen, for particular textile products and especially medical protective gear, how much of us are dependent on foreign production, especially China.”

Wootten said that officials made him aware that a need also existed among local businesses and industries, explaining, “They made us really aware how really necessary the private industry need was, and that’s what we didn’t really see.”

Wootten added a second reason for the company’s shift: “We realized that we were uniquely prepared to make a product that we were not familiar with, and that’s a washable, reusable face mask. As we began to talk to people week before last, we learned more and more about how we know the disposables are in great need, but a lot of private industry wants something they can take home and wash, and reuse for longer use, especially when you have a limited capacity.

“We’re primarily a home textile manufacturer, so we’re unique in that we have a large stock of sheeting fabric, cotton goods, in the country. (We’re) probably one of the few people in the country who holds as much fabric: a couple of million yards of cotton sheeting fabric at any given time. We had the machinery. 

“We sat down- I have a good staff- and we designed what we thought was a comfortable, usable, reusable, washable face mask. And, in a few days, we had something put together. After showing it around earlier this week, the feedback was fantastic. Because of what we do in the medical world, we were able to secure the BFE-95 bacterial filtration equipment- and a lot of people probably can’t; it’s in high demand, but because of our relationships, we were able to. We’ve been uniquely positioned to produce this product.”

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com