STA Winter Technical Seminar

Week of January 21, 2002

Wounded but roaring, industry stays in hunt

part 1

The Southern Textile Association’s Winter Technical Seminar drew nearly 300 people, including (front row, L-R) Jim Booterbaugh of Harriet & Henderson Yarns and Bill Manning and David West, both of of DAK Americas.

CHARLOTTE, NC — In times of despair, perhaps the easiest thing to do is to keep a low profile until trouble passes. And perhaps the most courageous is to congregate, console, commiserate and conspire to conquer.

Representatives of the embattled textile industry chose the latter Wednesday by showing up en masse for the Southern Textile Association’s Winter Technical Seminar here.

Nearly 300 people attended the information-packed event, which started with a nuts-and-bolts assessment of the industry by Jeff Butler, a principal at Kurt Salmon Associates, Greensboro, NC, and ended with a stirring speech by Andy Warlick, president and chief operating officer of Parkdale Mills, Gastonia, NC.

Jim Conner, advisor to and former executive vice president of the American Yarn Spinners Association, called the turnout “probably the largest gathering of textile people that will occur in the entire United States this year.”

And that speaks volumes about the concern of a results-oriented industry.

Several speakers referenced the industry upheaval, which perhaps attracted such a large number of representatives, all seeking answers, solutions and maybe even a rallying point. To wit:

• “Things simply aren’t normal these days.” — Everette Scarboro Jr., vice president of product development, Schlafhorst, Inc.;

• “What we had hoped for in 1999 was that this would be just another big cycle downturn. But what we’re caught up in is something much worse.” — Neil Cahill, vice president of the Institute of Textile Technology;

• “Our lions may be wounded, but they are roaring.” — Butler; and

• “What a year! What a year!” — Warlick, in opening his talk on free trade.

Comments from most speakers will be covered in forthcoming editions. This week, we will focus on Conner’s talk, “Status of Trade Agreements.”

TPA: ‘Weasel’ phrase

During his remarks, Conner called trade promotion authority a “weasel” phrase to refer to something that’s always been known as fast track, which gives the president the authority to negotiate trade deals, with only an up or down vote by Congress required. The House passed fast-track legislation last month, 215-214, after several textile-state lawmakers changed their vote in exchange for a list of textile-friendly concessions by House leadership.

Conner predicted that the Senate will pass the measure, but only after “a lot of arm-twisting.” He also said that other issues will come into play, too, as was seen in the House.

The issue has divided the textile industry, one side believing the concessions will be good for their trade and the other side believing they’re nothing more than shallow promises made by Republicans desperate to give President Bush power Bill Clinton never had.

Asked afterward his thoughts on the compromises, Conner said, “How many of you remember a guy named Spiro Agnew? One of his most famous quotes was, ‘Watch what we do, not what we say we will do.’ If you look at those concessions one by one, a fair amount of them is already on the books and should’ve been carried out in the first place.

“You look at some of the others, it’s going to take what happens in the WTO (World Trade Organization) to find out whether or not they ever become a reality, and the target on completing that is a minimum of three years and probably five or six years. So in terms of finding some immediate relief, there’s not a lot of substance. Hopefully we can survive long enough to see some of them come about and benefit.”

One of the divisive issues is related to the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), which went into effect in Oct. 2000 but has yet to get off the ground due to hang-ups over rules interpretation. In voting for fast track, textile-state House members were promised that legislation requiring all U.S. textiles be dyed and finished in the U.S. if used in Caribbean Basin-made apparel receiving duty-free treatment. A similar requirement would be included in a pending measure on apparel from the Andean region.

“Did the leadership of the House really know what they committed in the overall package?” Conner asked. “I can tell you this: I think, yes. I think the House leadership side is very serious about having (dyeing and) finishing of U.S. fabrics here.”

Earlier, he noted: “I don’t know what it’s going to do for you if you’re a greige goods manufacturer, to have (dyeing and) finishing only in the U.S., because if you want to sell your greige goods and sell direct, you ought to be able to sell them anywhere you can. But, nonetheless, we’re probably going to have finishing in the U.S. only.

“But the question is, if you’re declining here and you can’t ship to the Far East, where else are you going to find a customer for your product? The closest logical place seems to be the Caribbean and other parts of this hemisphere.”

Conner also discussed the launching of a new round of WTO trade talks during a ministerial meeting in Qatar in November. He read a declaration that emerged from the meeting that stated, in effect, that negotiations would occur related to tariff elimination or reduction on goods of “export interest” to developing countries.

“When you talk about market access, just keep in mind that that really and truly means access of the developing countries into the U.S. market,” Conner said. “But that’s not what (U.S. officials) tell you on television. I can almost assure you that 90 percent of the people in Doha had a different interpretation than what is being touted here in the United States to what that language actually means.”

ATMI to cut four positions

Week of January 21, 2002

Head Moore to step aside

WASHINGTON, DC — In following the lead of the industry it represents, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) is tightening its belt.

The lobbying group announced Tuesday that it is eliminating several high-level staff positions.

ATMI also said that Executive Vice President Carlos Moore has decided to leave his post and work part-time on trade policy and cotton issues. Moore, a 21-year veteran of the institute, said he will work part-time for 12 months when a replacement is found.

The actions are designed to cut expenses, ATMI said, and come less than a year after it trimmed nine positions, or about a third of its staff. When complete, the moves will leave the organization with 15 staffers.

“ATMI continues to demonstrate its value for our industry and is well positioned to achieve our key objectives when Congress returns in late January,” said ATMI President Chuck Hayes, chairman of Guilford Mills. “However, bankruptcies, consolidations and plant closings due to unfairly priced Asian imports and the recent economic slowdown have taken a toll on us all.

“The restructured ATMI will better reflect the size and composition of the industry it serves, and I applaud the hard work of our officers in working through this difficult process.”

ATMI has lost at least 40 percent of its revenue base over the last three years and now represents about 85 textile manufacturers and suppliers, according to reports.

Moore joined the association in 1980 as international trade director and succeeded Ray Shockley as executive vice president in 1985.

“After two decades of challenging and exciting work at ATMI, I concluded that now was a good time for me to step aside,” said Moore, 62. “This will provide a smooth succession for ATMI and I will also be able to take advantage of opportunities to do consulting on trade and other issues.”

During his ATMI tenure, Moore has focused on international trade issues, serving as an industry advisor and as chairman of the government’s Industry Sector Advisory Committee for Textiles and Apparel. He represented the group at negotiations on renewal of the Multifiber Arrangement, the U.S.-Canadian Free Trade Agreement, the Uruguay Round and NAFTA.

“I want personally to salute Carlos for his 21 years of leadership and accomplishments at ATMI,” Hayes said. “He has worked tirelessly for us, and I am pleased he will still be available to us in our transition.”

Positions that are being eliminated are that of deputy executive vice president and director of government relations (chief lobbyist), held by Doug Bulcao; director of membership and administrative services, held by Ron Floor; chief economist, held by David Link; and assistant director of government relations, held by Julie Fleming.

“All four of these individuals have served ATMI with great distinction and dedication and are true professionals,” Hayes said. “We wish them well.”

Hayes added that the changes “in no way diminish our continued commitment to lobby our industry’s issues in Washington. There should be no confusion as to the high priority this effort has. In addition, we will also be embarking on a high priority campaign to add members to ATMI.”

In other news related to ATMI, the group has trimmed its annual meeting from three days to two. The meeting is scheduled for March 20-21 in Washington.

Employee Recognition

Week of January 21, 2002

Springs’ director earns national IT recognition

FORT MILL, SC — Gwen Boddie, director of systems development at Springs Industries, has been recognized by IDG’s Computerworld, an information services company for the Information Technology leader community, as one of the business world’s Premier 100 IT Leaders.

The award honors individuals who have had a positive impact on their organizations through technology.

Now in its third year, the Premier 100 IT Leaders award recognized Boddie for exceptional technology leadership, innovative approaches to business challenges and effective execution of comprehensive IT strategies. Boddie will be honored at the Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leaders Conference, March 3-5, at The Marriott Desert Springs Resort, Palm Desert, CA.

Boddie was selected from hundreds of nominees, based on those leaders who most closely matched Computerworld’s Leadership Index, a set of characteristics that describes business and technology people who guide the effective use of IT in their organizations. Other award winners include leading IT executives from corporations such as The Bank of New York, Hewlett Packard, Staples, FedEx Corporation and Walt Disney World.

“Computerworld’s annual Premier 100 IT Leaders list honors individuals who display exceptional technology leadership in their organizations,” said Maryfran Johnson, editor in chief, Computerworld. “The honorees for 2002 join an elite class of innovative thinkers dedicated to solving business problems through creativity and effectively managed IT strategies.”

Prior to joining Springs in 1993, Boddie was employed by Chicago Mercantile Exchange. A 1981 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, she was a captain in the Marine Corps.

“I am truly honored by this recognition and am proud to be considered an IT leader in the business world and at Springs,” said Boddie. “With so many talented IT professionals impacting companies today, to be selected as a top 100 IT leader by Computerworld is such a meaningful accomplishment. My success is due, in part, to the support of my capable co-workers and to Springs, which has provided me with opportunities that encourage creativity and innovation.”

Mount Vernon clerk named by GTMA

ATLANTA — Elaine Wood, a personnel clerk with Mount Vernon Mills, Inc. in Alto, GA, was named the 2001 GTMA Citizen of the Year.

Governor Roy Barnes made the announcement during a ceremony in his office. The GTMA Citizen of the Year program is sponsored by GTMA: The Association of Georgia’s Textile, Carpet and Consumer Products Manufacturers.

Wood was among 10 finalists from textile and carpet companies throughout the state who were honored by the governor and GTMA for giving unselfishly of their time and talent to their communities, fellowman, churches and civic or service organizations.

Wood is a volunteer for the March of Dimes and the American Cancer Society annual fund-raisers, which combined raised $55,000 for the local community. In recognition of the needs of her community’s growing Hispanic population, and desire of the community to respond to those needs and embrace these new neighbors, Wood determined to become fluent in Spanish, and did so by attending Piedmont College. Through her church, the Cornelia Church of God, she was instrumental in the establishment of a Spanish ministry that is now fully operational and self-sufficient.

In 1996, Wood attended a mission trip just outside of Mexico City, where she assisted families and distributed church literature in Spanish that she purchased on her own by raising money at home. An accomplished singer, she is active in leading the Praise Choir in her church. The choir travels the area performing before other church congregations. She also donates her time to make floral arrangements for weddings.

In her spare time, Wood designs and makes wedding dresses by hand and has developed her own Web site advertising her finished products.

“Elaine’s spirited involvement in so many activities and organizations is indicative of the achievements of all of our finalists,” said Roy Bowen, president of GTMA. “She has truly made a positive difference in her community and is a source of both inspiration and pride among her associates at Mount Vernon Mills.”

In addition to the ceremony with the governor, the finalists were honored with a luncheon at the Cherokee Town Club in Atlanta and taken on a tour of the State Capitol.

This marked the 15th consecutive year that the association has sponsored this recognition.

The Georgia textile and carpet industry, with sales last year totaling nearly $26 billion, is the state’s largest manufacturing employer with over 97,000 employees.

Founded in 1900, GTMA is the statewide trade association that represents textile, carpet and consumer manufacturer in legislative, regulatory and public relations matters.

Mills

Week of January 21, 2002

‘Fresh,’ ‘innovative’ key words in WestPoint’s new products

WEST POINT, GA — WestPoint Stevens, Inc. said it has a new, two-pronged approach to product introductions: Make sure new products quench retailers’ thirst for innovation and make consumers’ lives a little easier.

An example of this attitude surfaced at the New York Home Textiles Market Week earlier this fall. The company said it didn’t just introduce new lines of bedding and bath linens, but focused on the innovations that will gain retailer space and consumer attention. There are items such as the new Martex Natural Stretch fitted sheet; the new Vellux wireless electric blanket; the new micro-cotton Grand Patrician Seduction towel; the new color direction of the Designers Guild bedding and bath line; utilization of the Disney Home brand to encompass bedding, bath and a full range of accessories; and the addition of down as a component in the popular bed-in-a-bag.

“We’re heeding the call of retailers and consumers in a very direct and distinctive way,” said Robert B. Dale, president of the bed and bath division. “Retailers are looking for innovative new products that they can single out and ‘spotlight’ for consumers … something that can be used to instantly command consumer attention. ‘Fresh’ and ‘innovative’ are key words. They won’t accept more of just the same old thing.”

Consumers, in turn, are not hesitant to voice their needs and wants, he added. “No one wants more of the same sheets and towels,” Dale said. “They want products that will perform for them in new ways and offer solutions for their hectic lifestyles … products that they feel compelled to buy for what the products can do for them.”

A case in point is the new Martex Natural Stretch fitted sheet. “In focus groups and surveys, consumers have told us that the fitted sheet is the biggest hassle in bed-making,” Dale said. “They have said that it’s very difficult to get a fitted sheet to really fit and that if they bought a larger size, the sheet bunched in the middle.”

In response, WestPoint Stevens worked with Cotton Incorporated in an exclusive arrangement to adapt a stretch technology originally developed for apparel for a new use in fitted sheets. The company’s finishing technology was instrumental in creating a product with stretch properties that ensure a smooth, taut fit and with “memory” to return to normal size after use, Dale said. The first of the Natural Stretch sheets will be shipped this quarter.

The new Vellux electric blanked leverages the Vellux name and fabric of the best-selling blanket and offers the innovation of a new wireless blanket, instead of the old-style round wires. The Vellux electric blanket is heated via conductive-fiber tape inserted into channels between the two layers of Vellux fabric. This means additional user comfort and safety, Dale added.

Meanwhile, the Grand Patrician Seduction towel offers innovative micro-cotton construction, ultimate absorbency and a lightweight but luxurious thickness, he said.

The Designers Guild collection, Dale added, offers a palette of fresh, vibrant colors for contemporary comfort in sheets, blankets and towels in master-bed ensembles, children’s bedding and a bath grouping — presented all together in one showroom at market. As a new color direction, the Designers Guild collection has received notable attention from both buyers visiting the showrooms and the media, he said.

In the Disney Home collection, the latest market showcased upscale solid-color jacquard “mouse ear” sheets, which coordinate with the Disney Home towel color palette; several new Disney quilts, including three specialty quilts with embroidery and dress market details; and a selection of accessories ranging from shower curtains to glasses to accent rugs. The bed-in-a-bag concept already has been a success for WestPoint Stevens and is currently offered at several price points. The bed-in-a-bag concept is regarded as a growth opportunity in the industry, Dale said.

Another area in which significant growth is projected is in down products, he added. So, WestPoint Stevens introduced Down-In-A-Bag, which includes all the usual components plus down in either a duvet or a finished comforter. This offers a new opportunity to customers who are asked by consumers to get more and better product lines, he pointed out.

“This range of innovative new products is in response to not just what we have already heard from our retailers and our consumers, but also what we are working to anticipate form them,” Dale said. “We have a number of other innovations currently in the works and there will be no let-up in our product development. WestPoint Stevens will continue to offer products that retailers can single out for consumers and that consumers will buy because these products make their lives easier and more enjoyable.”

Dorr Woolen earns ISO 14001

GUILD, NH — Dorr Woolen Company has been recommended for ISO 14001 certification by National Quality Assurance, USA.

For Dorr Woolen, the receipt of ISO 14001, the most widely recognized international standard for environmental management systems, is an important step in displaying its commitment to bettering the environment, according to a company spokesperson. Dorr Woolen is the first textile mill in the U.S. to achieve both ISO 9002 and ISO 14001 certification through National Quality Assurance, USA, according to the company.

“We believe that we are extremely well positioned to assist our customers in their efforts to develop their own ‘intelligent products,’ and we look forward to working with our customers in this endeavor,” said Merritt Loring, general manager at Dorr Woolen.

The implementation of the ISO 14001 environmental management system, in addition to its work with environmental consultants McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC), will enable Dorr to develop compostable, environmentally sound fabrics that embody sustainability, according to Loring.

“Dorr Woolen Company is now able to proudly display its ISO 14001 certificate along side its ISO 9002 certificate. This is tangible evidence of its commitment to superior product quality,” said Peter Barry, business development officer of NQA, USA.

Suppliers

Week of January 21, 2002

BarcoVision picked for Coats dyehouses

Automation panels covered in contract

CHARLOTTE, NC — Coats plc, the world’s largest supplier of industrial sewing thread, has chosen BarcoVision to supply all its dyehouse automation panels for the next 10 years.

The contract is believed to be the largest ever placed in the world for this type of equipment, according to Coats officials.

The agreement caters to the supply of Barco Sedo SM5000 controllers required as a result of Coats’ major expansion plans, plus additional units needed as part of a phased replacement of the company’s existing controllers. The contract also includes the supply and installation of SedoMaster supervisory systems, incorporating BarcoVision’s production, management reporting and networking modules.

SedoMaster is a Windows NT-based solution designed to link and monitor the individual SM5000 controllers. It will give everyone at Coats, from machine operators to senior management, an integrated system capable of managing both recipes and processes. It will also provide the necessary interfaces to other systems, such as chemical dispensing and recipe management.

“We are committed to giving our customers first-class service wherever they operate in the world,” said Andrew Morgan, global supply chain director at Coats in Uxbridge. “As a result we are constantly establishing new plants in developing markets. We chose BarcoVision as our preferred partner because their international coverage enables them to support our global operations and because their consistent focus on product development means that our dyehouses will always enjoy the benefit of state-of-the-art equipment.”

“We are delighted to have BarcoVision as our long-term partner and we look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”

For the group, Eric Dings of Barco said he is thrilled to have won such a prestigious order.

“It reflects great credit on everyone in the BarcoVision team and, like Coats, we look forward to implementing this landmark contract,” Dings said.

Coats has manufacturing and distribution centers in 65 countries.BarcoVision is part of the global Barco Group, whose product lines include Barco Sedo and Beacon.

Batson Yarn and Fabrics becomes ‘Batson Group’

GREENVILLE, SC — Batson Yarn and Fabrics Machinery Group, Inc., an affiliate of Louis P. Batson Company, has earned the reputation as a major supplier of capital equipment, spare parts and technical service from its presence in the textile industry for 54 years, according to company officials.

However, with more than 30 product lines in place, it has reported growth into new markets. With this in mind, company officials announced the decision to adopt a new name, Batson Group, Inc., and a new logo. The logo will still feature the bold lettering and signature colors of red and black, which represent the strength and stamina of the company.

“The company’s philosophy and goals will remain the same, including our commitment to the textile industry,” said Stan Bell, Batson Group, Inc. manager. “However, it is necessary to constantly re-evaluate organizational structure and day-to-day operations.”

Batson and its team of manufacturers provide complete manufacturing solutions, including capital equipment, spare parts, accessories and technical service. Batson Group Inc., along with its affiliates, Louis P. Batson Company and Louis P. Batson, Incorporated, offer product lines that are specific to the textile, plastics, paper, converting, rubber, foil, film and electronic industries, to name a few.

“This name is more accurately aligned with our mission and the new markets we are serving,” said Louis P. Batson Jr., chairman. “We will remain aggressive, as always, in anticipating customer needs. It is important to offer a great product and competitive process, but we must nurture current and future customer relationships with proper support services. In spite of today’s advanced technology, we will continue to offer a face and a voice with each sale.”

Fruit to install Rieter machines

SPARTANBURG, SC — Rieter Corporation announced that, for the second time, Fruit of the Loom has purchased Rieter R 20 rotor spinning machines and Rieter RSB D 30 drawframes for the modernization of one of its plants.

Installation of the machines will begin in the spring and will be completed in the spring of next year, Rieter said. The location of the plant was not given. The purchase will make Fruit of the Loom the largest user of Rieter R 20 rotor spinning machines and RSB drawframes, Rieter added.

“The Rieter spinning machinery that we have purchased will give Fruit of the Loom high-quality, 100-percent cotton and blended polyester/cotton rotor spun yarns for use in our apparel products,” said a Fruit of the Loom official. “Our management is very pleased that the current installation is progressing exactly as scheduled. The performance of the Rieter machines is exceeding our expectations with regard to improvements in productivity and quality.”

“We are extremely grateful for the confidence that Fruit of the Loom has shown in our products and our company by purchasing additional R 20s for the second phase of its modernization program,” said a Rieter spokesperson.

Fruit of the Loom is one of the world’s largest producers of a wide variety of apparel products for age groups ranging from infants to seniors.

Lawson-Hemphill adds models

CENTRAL FALLS, RI — Lawson-Hemphill, Inc. said it has added three new models to its line of lab knitting machines.

They include the Basic Automatic Knitter (BAK); the Hot Draw Knitter with Draw Force Testing (HDK-DFT), a lab knitter that draws the partially oriented yarn and then knits it and simultaneously measures the draw force; and the Fiber Analysis Knitter (FAK-SE) for knitting elastromeric yarns.

These additions are added to the Lawson-Hemphill FAK lab knitter, which is used worldwide and con-sidered standard, due to its unique tension control system, according to company officials.

Mill News

Week of January 21, 2002

Wellman will fall short, may close or sell plants

SHREWSBURY, NJ — Wellman, Inc. said Thursday it expects earnings for the fourth quarter to fall below analysts’ expectations and warned of selling or closing plants.

The polyester producer said it expects to lose between 15 and 20 cents per share, excluding income of about 15 cents per share from a settlement of an insurance claim related to a power outage last year.

The company said its results were adversely affected by “competitive pressures on margins in the PET resins business and lower production volumes in both the fibers and resins businesses.” The company did reduce debt by more than $15 million, according to Tom Duff, CEO.

Wellman plans to review its polyester fibers business and focus on “more differentiated, higher value-added products.” As such, the company is looking at selling or possibly closing plants in Fayetteville, NC, where polyester partially oriented yarn (POY) is made; and Marion, SC, a polyester staple fiber plant. Wellman also is exploring options for its idle staple fiber assets at its Pearl River facility.

Sara Lee to move jobs to N. Carolina

As part of a consolidation of its apparel division, Sara Lee is eliminating jobs in Delaware and Connecticut, but adding others in North Carolina.

The company said it is closing two plants in Dover, DE, where clothing under the Playtex Apparel Label is made. About 385 employees will lose their jobs, but about 250 of the jobs will be transferred to its Kings Mountain, NC, facility.

The headquarters of Sara Lee’s Playtex Apparel unit in Stamford, CN, also is being closed. It is being moved to Winston-Salem, NC, where 40 jobs will be created.

Seville Dyeing Co. may get second life

WOONSOCKET, RI — Seville Dyeing Company, originally scheduled to be closed on December 31, will remain open until at least Jan. 25 while interested parties look at buying the firm, according to local media reports.

Two unnamed, separate groups are exploring the possibility of buying the ailing firm, which has been hurt by imports in recent years.

The company, which went into receivership in July, blamed its woes on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which a spokesperson said led to a rising level of printed fabric imports.

Seville has let go about 200 people over the last two months and now counts about 120 on its payroll.

Employees who have been laid off by the company may be eligible for federal Trade Adjustment Assistance, according to Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-MA).

Seville had been planning to liquidate its assets to pay off some $8.7 million in debts.

Shuford Mills scaling back some operations

GRANITE FALLS, NC — Shuford Mills is ceasing the carding and spinning operations at its No. 2 Plant here, at least temporarily, leaving 25 to 30 people out of work, said Allen Barwick, president.

Those areas will be closed “until business picks back up,” Barwick said. Those operations will continue until the plant runs out of material in stock, he added.

Ramtex to reducing weaving capacity

RAMSEUR, NC — Ramtex, Inc. said it is reducing the size of its weaving operation, putting about 85 people of work.

The cuts were to occur today, when weaving functions change from 12-hour to eight-hour shifts. The company employs 650 people.

Kellwood lays off 25 in Mississippi

McCOMB, MS — Apparel maker Kellwood has laid off about 25 employees in manufacturing and administrative positions at its Summit facility here as a result of the sluggish economy, company officials said.

The plant is the company’s primary producer of women’s intimate apparel.

Levi Strauss & Co. exploring closures

SAN FRANCISCO — Levi Strauss & Co. is talking with unions about possibly closing manufacturing plants in the U.S. and Europe, the jeans maker said Wednesday in announcing its fourth-quarter results.

The company said it is looking to close two plants in Scotland, but did not indicate which of its seven plants in the U.S. it is planning to shutter.

Levi Strauss reported a 16 percent drop in income for the quarter, to $63 million. Earnings for the year slipped 32 percent to $151 million.

Mill News

Week of January 21, 2002

Guilford to file bankruptcy?

GREENSBORO, NC — Guilford Mills warned that it may be forced to file for bankruptcy protection if it can’t refinance $270 million debt, the company said Tuesday.

In July, Guilford had failed to meet a requirement of its senior loan agreement with its banks, led by Wachovia, but the waiver was extended several times. Deadline to refinance the debt was Friday.

The company’s auditor, Arthur Andersen, LLP, expressed doubts about Guilford’s ability to continue as a “going concern.”

The warp knitter has steadily closed plants and cut jobs over the last two years and revealed in its 10-K filing that it “had closed or committed to close all of its domestic apparel dyeing and finishing facilities.”

The company, which reduced its head count last year by 1,725, plans to focus domestically on making textiles for home furnishings and automotive interiors.

“The U.S. textile industry has suffered significant declines in the past four years, beginning with the Asian financial crisis, a situation exacerbated by the shrinking apparel and home fashions markets, the domestic economic slowdown and the U.S. government’s unwillingness to assist,” said John Emrich, president and CEO. “Guilford has effected dramatic and difficult operational changes over the past 18 months and continues to face harsh market and financial conditions as it attempts to position itself for the future.

“Executing our business plan is dependent upon the company’s ability to restructure its debt.”

Guilford plans to continue to make apparel fabrics in Altamira, Mexico.

In reporting its fourth quarter results, Guilford said it lost $113 million, or $6.07 per share, as its sales fell 21 percent to $643.5 million. Of that loss, $58.8 million was related to its decision to close a Cobleskill, NY, plant and downsize a Pine Grove, PA, plant.

For the year, the company lost $160.8 million, or $8.48 per share.

Sales in the apparel segment for the quarter declined 47 percent from the prior year’s quarter as a result of sector exits, low-priced imports and depressed retail sales, the company said.

Editorial

Week of January 21, 2002

Industry’s ‘voice’ to grow quieter

IF ATMI were a choir, it would soon sing a more subdued tune.

Last week, the “voice” of the domestic textile industry in Washington announced that it is eliminating several high-level staff positions and that Carlos Moore, its executive vice president for 16 of his 21 years with the organization, will step aside. Moore said he would stay on part-time to handle trade policy and cotton issues for a year after his successor moves in. He also will help groom the person who will step into his well-worn shoes, which carry a lot of weight and power through the streets of D.C. and the halls of Congress. This “director” will be hard to replace.

Meanwhile, the organization is being forced to pink-slip a quartet of its top executives, who each play prominent roles as “soloists” in their respective areas of concentration. Among them: Doug Bulcao, its chief lobbyist who carries the titles deputy executive vice president and director of government relations; Ron Floor, its director of membership and administrative services; David Link, its chief economist; and Julie Fleming, its assistant director of government relations.

When the page is turned, the group will be composed of only 15 voices, just shy of half of its total a year ago.

THE PAINFUL MOVES are necessary as a result of dissonance within the industry — specifically, the erosion of mills and subsequent contraction of its membership over the last couple of years, ATMI said. According to reports, the institute has lost more than 40 percent of its revenue base in the past three years. And only 85 members remain from the 200-plus that were affiliated when Moore joined the association in 1980. Nearly two years ago, the group suffered a major blow when longtime member Milliken & Co. left the group’s ranks and took its hefty dues with it.

In the textile industry these days, many links in the food chain are being malnourished — ATMI and other industry-related associations notwithstanding. Many companies, no doubt, have decided that membership into ATMI is a luxury they no longer can afford.

Tough as dropping out is, the importance of being a member of this organization cannot be underestimated. The institute seems to always be around when government lobbying on issues big and small is needed. Member programs, such as Encouraging Environmental Excellence and Quest for the Best in Safety and Health, are certainly value added. And more than anything, the group brings a sense of harmony and unity in the industry, the latter being one of the mantras Chuck Hayes crooned when he was elected president of the group last year.

Hayes, chairman of Guilford Mills, said last week that these actions “in no way diminish our continued commitment to lobby our industry’s issues in Washington. There should be no confusion as to the high priority this effort has. In addition, we will also be embarking on a high priority campaign to add members to ATMI.”

But with fewer “vocalists,” hitting those high notes as effectively may be difficult as we move into the next stanza of ATMI’s history.

MEANWHILE, WE WOULD be remiss by not commending Mr. Moore. If you know him, you know he loves this industry, his organization and the many relationships he has fostered over the years. ATMI’s and the industry’s achievements in Washington under Moore’s watch have not gone unnoticed. But as much as he is passionate about this industry’s well being, he did the gentlemanly thing by choosing to step aside. With dwindling revenues, this veteran probably realized that the organization can no longer afford his services.

The industry surely will miss the always-steady, always-prepared Moore, who knows the issues inside out and backward. He’s a real pro — and a friend to many.
His departure, and that of his fellow ATMI colleagues, will leave many singing the blues.

Textile News Index