Outside magazine, March 1996
After last December's inferno at the Malden Mills plant in Methuen, Massachusetts, shock waves could be felt both locally and throughout the outdoor-recreation business. The blaze injured 33 and hobbled production of Polartec, Malden's $220-million-a-year fleece fabric. "It's a miracle we weren't completely wiped out," says Jennifer Sommers, spokesperson for the Polartec Performance Challenge grant program, which annually awards $75,000 in expedition seed money. But though the plant was decimated, Sommers says that Malden Mills was able to fill all standing Polartec orders using existing inventory from an off-site warehouse and, thanks to massive amounts of federal and state support, was producing the fabric at a nearby factory within days. The grant progam will also continue without interruption: The 1996 award recipients, announced just before the fire, include British and Italian K2 expeditions, American first-ascent efforts in Nepal and Borneo, and alpinist Marc Twight's "Back with an Attitude" speed-climbing project in the Alps.