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Central America’s Largest Apparel Factory Begins Pilot Phase

MEXICO CITY Measuring 678,000 square feet and roughly the size of three soccer stadiums, Central America’s largest apparel factory has begun technical testing with the goal of starting to produce sportswear for the likes of Nike and Under Armour in October or November, executives told WWD.

“They have begun testing manufacturing machines and integrating production lines,” said Alden Rivera, director at Honduran Maquila Association. “This will be the largest sportswear processing factory in Central America and the Caribbean.”

Set to employ 5,000 people, the Tegra Global-owned Arena industrial park will enter its final pilot phase in late October when production samples will begin shipping to clients and personnel will start taking their posts, added Rivera.

He would not provide production rates but said output will greatly exceed that of any Central American textiles and apparel factory.

Located on Calle 33 in rusty San Pedro Sula, a Caribbean textiles pole, Tegra’s building partner Grupo Kattan has begun moving machinery to the site, according to business development director Fabian Nolasco.

He added the $48 million facility has also started training equipment operators and that the production ramp-up should begin accelerating in coming weeks, with the 5,000 workers gradually getting hired between September and October.

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Arena was slated for inauguration in January, but the pandemic forced it to be heavily delayed, the executives said. It will bring innovations in printing, embroidery and automation and will have lower energy usage and be more environmentally friendly than competing factories, they added.

“It will be vertically integrated, fully specialized in sportswear and bring technological innovations,” said Rivera, declining to provide more particulars until the project is fully running. Around 80 percent of the factory will be devoted to making exclusive Nike products while the rest will source for Under Armour and other unnamed brands.

Tegra declined to answer comment requests. Nike and Under Armour, which make a significant amount of their clothing across factories in Central America, also did not immediately comment.

Arena’s completion is a big win for Tegra following a recent crisis in which it had to close a major factory in Nicaragua to consolidate its franchise in Honduras, drawing the ire of textile unions that demanded fair compensation for 965 idled workers in Managua. Tegra eventually agreed to pay the operators layoff compensation and is now making progress in its Honduran integration, according to union sources.

The fledgling industrial complex, which will operate under the Inhdelva free-trade zones, will become the nucleus of Honduras’ efforts to more seamlessly integrate synthetic thread and fabric production into its apparel supply chain as it works to become a more efficient performance sportswear giant.

“This is going to become a very powerful regional cluster and very efficient in terms of energy usage and sustainability” as it will have a water treatment plant, boasted Guillermo Matamoros, Tegucigalpa-region director at AHM. “It’s a huge factory, huge in Honduras but also in the U.S. or China.”

Matamoros said the plant will help Honduras to significantly bolster U.S. exports, set to surpass $5 billion this year after a major fall to $3.5 billion in 2020 amid COVID-19, which dented the Central American countries’ shipments as much as 92 percent at the height of the pandemic in April 2020.

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