100 new jobs, possible government contracts coming to Hickey Freeman

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — In the early days of the pandemic masks were hard to find, but local textile company Hickey Freeman stepped up and produced critical Personal Protective Equipment (or PPE) for healthcare workers at area hospitals as well as other businesses in the Rochester community.

Now, the 122-year-old company best known for its tailored suits is looking at adding 100 new employees to its workforce and potentially securing multi-year contracts with government agencies to produce PPE. The latter will depend on whether or not the bipartisan infrastructure bill passes in Congress.

Sen. Maj. Leader Chuck Schumer was joined by Rep. Joe Morelle (D, NY-25) and County Executive Adam Bello at the Hickey Freeman factory on North Clinton Avenue in Rochester Monday, where he officially announced the workforce expansion. Hundreds of workers were present for the announcement as well.

"We’re proud to say that Hickey Freeman is set up for a bright future with new production and a hundred new jobs coming to this plant," Schumer said.

CEO of Rochester Tailored Clothing (which oversees Hickey Freeman), Stephen Granovsky said the company has already filled 14 of the 100 new positions and is actively looking to recruit more people.

Pranay Shah is one of the people in charge of filling those positions. He is a production manager at the company who has worked his way up the ranks over several decades.

"I came here in 1988 and started working here then as a presser,” Shah said.

When asked how hiring is going, he said: “It’s going okay, but I’d like to see more people come through the door."

With labor shortages across industries, there have been challenges filling new positions resulting in more work for current employees.

"Probably it will be more work for them until we find all these people,” Shah said. “We’ll be doing more overtimes probably, but people who have kids and stuff it’ll be hard but we’ll manage."

If the infrastructure bill (which has already passed in the Senate but has been met with some opposition) passes, more work could be coming to American companies like Hickey Freeman.

"We’ve worked very hard the past three months to build this business,” Granovsky said. “Only recently have signed a number of new customers, couple very large ones, and the result is that this factory will be as busy as we can hire it to be."

Schumer spoke specifically about the Make PPE In America portion of the bill, saying that one of the reasons masks/PPE was in short supply at the beginning of the pandemic was because not enough was made in America. That portion of the bill is unrelated to the 100 new jobs at Hickey Freeman, which will focus primarily on manufacturing suits and textiles.

"[The bill] includes a Marshall Plan to ensure that the federal government uses American-made PPE right here, using companies like Hickey Freeman. You all remember the shortages of PPE, and one of the reasons is we didn’t make much of it in America, much of it was made overseas," Schumer said.

The deadline for passing the Infrastructure Bill has been pushed to Oct. 31.

Hickey Freeman has not provided News10NBC with a method of applying for those jobs, but its website lists HR@hickeyfreeman.com as its contact for employment inquiries.