Outside magazine, March 1996
By Todd Balf and Paul Kvinta (with Brian Alexander and Steve Law)
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.