Feb. 17, 2012 — An Olive Hill company will be forced to shut its doors if they lose their biggest Federal contract.
The Journal-Times confirmed Friday that Ashland Sales and Service Company will close at the end of the year if they are no longer contracted to make a dress jacket that is mandatory for all members of the Air Force. The company, which employs around 100 people, sells the Air Force roughly 70,000 jackets each year, including one worn by the President of the United States.
The five-year, $20 million contract expires at the end of the year and is in danger of being awarded to the federal prison industry.
Ashland Sales President Michael Mansh told the Journal-Times that he was surprised President Obama would consider the change.
“Why would the President want to wear a jacket made by criminals,” Mansh said. “This is not something that they have to do in Washington, they are making a choice that will put tax paying citizens out of work.”
Mansh said 7-10 percent of the textile market gets labor from federal prisoners, who are paid $.23 an hour.
“The federal prison industry was created to give inmates job skills for when they finished serving their sentence, not to put hard working people out of work,” Mansh added.
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is supporting the facility.
“I was stunned to hear the news that the Obama Administration is threatening the future of the largest employer in Olive Hill, essentially giving the work to prisoners,” McConnell said in a press release. “There are plenty of things prisoners can do to improve our communities that don't involve putting a company that has made Air Force jackets for the past fifty years out of business. With Kentucky's unemployment still above 9% now is not the time for this Administration to start looking for ways to pay convicts to take law abiding taxpaying Kentuckians' jobs."
Mansh enlisted the help from Sen. McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to persuade the Defense Department to reverse course.
“This is not a done deal yet,” Mansh said. “We don’t know if Obama will listen, but we have to do what we can to convince him not to take work away from the people of Olive Hill just because the prisoners need additional work to do.”