Fabric at the Grupo M textile factory in the Dominican Republic.
Adam and I are heading to Haiti for a series of Planet Money reports on whether there's any hope for its crushed economy. On the way, we stopped off in the Dominican Republic — and one of the places we checked out was a company that has been working across the border, providing jobs to Haitians in an industry that some see as Haiti's biggest hope: textiles.
Grupo M supplies jeans and T-shirts for such big-name brands as DKNY, Liz Clairborne and Perry Ellis. Its pretty flashy website claims they are "the largest private employer in the Dominican Republic." The fabrics you see pictured above will be cut in the Dominican Republic, sent over the border to Haiti to be sewn into t-shirts, sent back to the Dominican Republic, washed and then shipped out to the U.S. One t-shirt will make the trip across border twice for two simple reasons:
1. Labor in Haiti is cheap.
2. Textiles manufactured in Haiti are duty-free.
Despite those advantages, the people at Grupo M told us it's been hard to convince American apparel companies that they want the "Made in Haiti" label. That is, until now. Apparently the earthquake is "raising awareness about Haiti's story." In other words, Haiti is now cool.
Inside the Grupo M textile factory in the Dominican Republic.