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Lakeland Industries finds China expensive, opens plants in India, Vietnam

Christopher Ryan, right, is CEO of Ronkonkoma-based Lakeland

Christopher Ryan, right, is CEO of Ronkonkoma-based Lakeland Industries, Inc.. The company manufactures protective clothing used by workers who mix insecticides used to kill mosquitos. Here, managing director Vitaly Gladyshev, left, wears a ChemMax 1 suit which offers Level C protection. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

A Ronkonkoma-based maker of protective clothing has opened factories in Vietnam and India “to offset increasing manufacturing costs in China,” executives said this week.

Lakeland Industries Inc. said in securities filings, “We have initiated startup manufacturing operations in Vietnam . . . and India.”

The company will continue to make products in China but mainly for sale there. It first opened a Chinese plant in 1995 after struggling for years to find seamstresses in the United States.

CEO Christopher J. Ryan recalled that a shortage of seamstresses on Long Island led first to the opening of a factory in Alabama in the 1970s and then one in Mexico after NAFTA.

“Believe me, we couldn’t hire anybody in the United States to do sewing, and we still can’t,” he told Newsday in 2014.

He said this week that the Vietnam and India plants “will provide for lower-cost manufacturing as compared with the majority of our products made in China and Mexico.”

Lakeland employed 1,072 people as of Jan. 31, with the lion’s share at overseas facilities. About 100 people work at the Alabama factory and Ronkonkoma headquarters, according to the securities filings.

The company’s protective clothing is used in chemical plants, industrial operations and by firefighters. Some are disposable, and some can be used for limited time periods.

Lakeland reported a profit of $440,000 for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31 compared with $3.9 million a year earlier. The 2018 profit was narrowed by a noncash charge of $5.1 million tied to the federal tax overhaul in December 2017.

Lakeland’s sales for the 12-month period totaled $96 million, up 11 percent from fiscal 2017. The gain was due in part to the resurgence of the oil and natural gas industries.

“Having served the company for nearly 32 years, I can say with complete confidence that we have never been in a better position,” Ryan said.

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