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Hickey Freeman plans to add 100 workers, Schumer pushes for more American-made PPE

James Brown

Hickey Freeman is aggressively expanding, bringing dozens of new jobs to Rochester. The luxury clothing company announced Monday that they’re adding 100 positions to its North Clinton Avenue factory starting immediately. They’ve already hired about a dozen people.

On Monday, CEO Stephen Granovsky said most of those jobs require tailoring or machine operating experience but he said that they expect to hire and train some workers as well. 

This growth, Granovsky said, is in anticipation of several new lines of business.

“We’ve actually signed contracts with three or four different brands, one large brand in particular who are going to move their brands from their current factory to our factory,” said Granovsky. 

He would not reveal the name of the companies. 

The expansion comes after Hickey Freeman already agreed to sell its factory to Home Leasing. Granovsky still expects that about half the building will be turned into affordable housing units while Hickey Freeman continues to operate there. 

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer visited the factory Monday as part of his push for passage of the massive federal infrastructure bill. One part of the massive bill is called the Make PPE in America Act, which would offer federal contracts to do just that --- make PPE, masks, filters, gloves, and other supplies, in America. 

“It means a four-letter word for Hickey Freeman and Rochester,” said Schumer. “Jobs. Two four-letter words: more jobs.”

Shortly after the pandemic hit, Hickey Freeman and Xerox partnered to make cloth masks for Rochester General Hospital and Granovsky said they quickly began making medical gowns too. He said they would like that to continue. The post-pandemic challenge, Granovsky said, is why continue making PPE domestically at all?

“No matter what prospective you have, it's going to be higher cost to make in America than it is to make in China: where most PPE is produced today,” said Granovsky. “But if the government takes a proactive stance around pandemic preparedness, crisis management, job creation, there’s an opportunity to make permanent what we’ve learned as a temporary requirement during the pandemic.”

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.