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Protective clothing manufacturer whose stock soared with coronavirus is moving HQ off LI

Vitaly Gladyshev, a managing director at Ronkonkoma-based Lakeland

Vitaly Gladyshev, a managing director at Ronkonkoma-based Lakeland Industries, Inc., wears one of the company's protective suits. The company, which is moving to Alabama, says its six LI employees will remain on the payroll. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

A manufacturer of protective clothing that has seen its stock price soar because of the coronavirus will move its headquarters from Long Island to Alabama, effective Saturday, executives announced.

Lakeland Industries Inc. in Ronkonkoma said its factory and warehouse in Decatur, Alabama will be designated its corporate office as well. The company owns three properties in Decatur, according to a securities filing.

The move coincides with the promotion of chief operating officer Charles D. Roberson to be CEO, starting on Saturday. Roberson, 57, lives in Owens Cross Roads, Alabama, which is about 40 miles from the new Lakeland headquarters.

Roberson succeeds Christopher J. Ryan, the company’s CEO since 2003 and its largest individual shareholder. Ryan will become executive board chairman.

Ryan wasn't available to comment on Wednesday. But company spokesman Jordan Darrow said that since last year "the intent was to move everyone to Alabama as that is where we have almost all of our U.S. operations." 

Lakeland is among a handful of companies with rising stock prices as investors pour money into makers of protective suits, masks and other products used to contain deadly diseases such as coronavirus, which has claimed about 170 lives in China.

Lakeland shares rose 17% on Monday to a 52-week high of $16.28 on the NASDAQ Stock Market. On Thursday, the shares closed up 68 cents, or 5%, to $13.82.

In announcing the headquarter change, the company said it will save $150,000 per year and its six employees in Ronkonkoma will remain on the payroll. They have chosen to remain on Long Island and will work remotely, the spokesman said Wednesday.

Lakeland has deep roots on Long Island, started by Raymond J. Smith in the 1960s to manufacture lightweight, disposable protective garments using the synthetic material Tyvek.

Smith initially called the company Disposables Inc., then Abanda, and after a business dispute, Lakeland. He shifted production from Long Island to Alabama in the 1970s.

The company now has more than 1,600 employees but only about 100 work in the United States. Besides Alabama, the company has factories in China, India, Mexico and Vietnam, the securities filing states.

Lakeland reported a profit of $1.5 million for the year ended Jan. 31, 2019 on sales of $99 million.

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