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October 31, 2018

Tariff ruling protects 130 jobs and future growth of Sanford rug manufacturer

Maine's congressional delegation announced Tuesday that Flemish Master Weavers, with 130 employees working at its 210,000-square-foot plant in Sanford, prevailed in its application for an exemption from a tariff on yarn it uses to manufacture area rugs in Maine.

The ruling by the Foreign-Trade Zones Board helps Flemish Master Weavers compete against foreign competitors by allowing it to forego an $8.8% tariff by being part of Waterville's foreign trade zone.

The waiver puts the company in a strong position for continued growth, according to a news release.

Flemish Master Weavers is owned by Natco Home Products Corp., a $300-plus million diversified rug and textile company headquartered in West Warwick, R.I. With more than 2.5-million square feet of manufacturing and distribution facilities employing more than 1,500 people around the world, Natco's retail distribution stretches from the low end of dollar stores up through the mid-market, according to its website.

The Portland Press Herald reported that the ruling removes an impediment that would have jeopardized its manufacturing operations in Sanford and its 130 workers. Prior to the ruling, the newspaper reported, Flemish Master Weavers faced a twofold challenge as the result of being stuck between some U.S. competitors that paid no tariffs because they produce their own yarn, and competition from large overseas competitors with lower labor costs that could sell their rugs for less.

"As one of southern Maine's largest manufacturing employers, Flemish Master Weavers has a vital role in our state's economy and provides good jobs for Maine families," U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-District 1, and Bruce Poliquin, R-District 2, said in their news release. "We are pleased that, following our advocacy, Flemish Master Weavers will now be exempt from this harmful tariff. The approval of Flemish Master Weavers' application not only increases the company's competitiveness, but puts it on track to expand operations."

In November 2016, the delegation sent a letter to the FTZ Board calling for the approval of the company's application to be exempt from the tariff on yarn.

Johan Moulin, president of Flemish Master Weavers, credited the delegation, Gov. Paul LePage, the city of Waterville, the Central Maine Growth Council, the company's attorney and consulting firm, among others, with helping the company prevail in its efforts to be free of tariffs that he said were "a major impediment to our continued growth."

"In this time of political division, all of them strove together to achieve a positive result for the people of Maine as well as for Flemish Master Weavers," Moulin said in a news release.

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