Bob Ellis calls it a career

Week of July 30, 2001

CEO served Textile Hall for 34 years

By Ron Copsey

GREENVILLE, SC — J. Robert “Bob” Ellis, who recently retired as president and CEO of Textile Hall Corporation (THC) after 34 years of service, this month was honored for his longtime service.

Family members, members of the THC board of directors and staff members of THC and the Palmetto Expo Center were on hand for the reception at the Poinsett Club here.

Ellis, 64, who spent the last 21 years in those two posts, was succeeded by Butler B. Mullins, who previously served THC as executive vice president.

Founded in 1915, THC was formed as an exposition management company to produce and promote events primarily for the textile and textile-related industries. The eleemosynary corporation is best known for the American Textile Machinery Exhibition-International (ATME-I), which it produces, and for its longtime ownership of the Palmetto Expo Center here. Last month the City of Greenville purchased the 512,000 square foot complex for $6.8 million.

Bob Ellis (R) removes ties from a jar presented to him by Bob Coleman, former chairman of Textile Hall Corporation, during Ellis’ retirement reception. The gag gift was given because Ellis had admired Coleman’s ties over the years.

A textile man all his life, Ellis worked for Milliken and Company for seven years before joining THC in 1967. He went to work at the Gayley Plant in Marietta, SC, following graduation from Erskine College in Due West, SC, in 1960. In 1963, he transferred to the Judson Plant here.

He joined THC five years after the new Textile Hall was constructed to replace the original Textile Hall building downtown on West Washington Street, the location of textile machinery shows since 1917. (The Textile Hall name was changed to Palmetto Expo Center in 1986.)

Ellis became president and CEO of THC in 1980, which elevated him to the board of directors and executive committee. He succeeded Yancey S. Gilkerson. In addition to corporate responsibilities, he also served as director of ATME-I, beginning with that show’s move to Greenville from Atlantic City, NJ, in 1969.

In the news ...

Week of July 30, 2001

Equipment donated to Clemson

By Ron Copsey

CLEMSON, SC — Clemson University’s School of Textiles, Fiber and Polymer Science has received numerous pieces of equipment reflecting the current technology used in the industry’s manufacturing operations, according to E. Gordon Summey II, the school’s director of technical services.

Since arriving at the school two years ago, Summey, who has 35 years experience in textile manufacturing, has been very active in “recruiting equipment.”

“With the additional duty of industrial liaison for the school, I have been striving to modernize and upgrade the department of textiles as much as possible and I am very pleased that, with the assistance of the machinery industry, we have been very successful,” he said. “I am very appreciative and grateful to the machinery industry for its donations and loans of state-of-the-art equipment so our students can learn the latest textile manufacturing technology and become highly marketable after graduation,” he said.

During the past two years, nine companies have provided significant equipment for the textile school’s 90 undergraduate and 30 graduate students. “There are no words to thank these individuals and companies for their generous support and belief in our program and students,” Summey said.

Corporate machinery contributors to the textile school within the last two years are: Alexander Machinery, off-loom take-up and inspection machine; American Savio, automatic winder; Day International, materials for manufacturing operations; and Kinder International, BDS dye unit.

Others include: Lawson-Hemphill, two-for-one twister and doubler and Statimat yarn tester with computer; Picanol of America, Omni air jet weaving machine; Sonoco/Crellin, tubes for manufacturing operations; Tekmatex, Uster Tensorapid III, Tester III and Classimat II with six spindle winder, testing equipment with all options as well as Nortec Conclair Humidity Control System; and Textube Corporation, cones for manufacturing operation.

Frisby signs deal with Puma

WINSTON-SALEM, NC — Frisby Technologies, Inc., the developer of COMFORTEMP materials, announced that Puma AG of Herzogenaurach, Germany, will feature COMFORTEMP materials in its new Lateral collection of clothing and shoes.

Puma has incorporated Ultimate Sports Performance (USP) technology into the apparel, which brings more improvements to the garments — through extra breathability, moisture wicking, waterproof and thermal regulation for the body, the company said. The materials used were selected to provide easy care for the garments.

A unique Lateral statement product is the Eclipse Gilet. This vest features an advanced technology liner constructed from Schoeller-COMFORTEMP fabrics from Schoeller Frisby Technologies GmbH of Sevelen, Switzerland, to provide dynamic climate control.

All COMFORTEMP materials contain Frisby’s pro- prietary thermal additive that automatically absorbs, stores and releases heat as required to maintain a balanced temperature, according to Frisby.

Jimtex Yarns to reopen after fire destroys plant

SPARTANBURG, SC — After a major fire caused the total loss of its leased manufacturing facility, Jimtex Yarns is currently in negotiations to purchase a plant in South Carolina.

Jimtex suffered more than $10 million in damages in the March 26 fire, which began outside of the Jimtex rental area and destroyed all its equipment and supplies. None of the company’s 40 employees were injured.

According to Stefanie Zeldin, director of new business development, the new facility will enable the yarn manufacturer to increase its output capacity, which is timely given the recent trade enhancement act signed into law by President Clinton last October.

“There’s always a silver lining to troubled times,” she said. “We have incurred a tremendous loss in equipment, supplies and revenue because of the fire. However, we are in recovery, negotiating for larger, state-of-the-art facilities and looking at a great opportunity for growth due to the new Caribbean Basin trade law.”

According to a letter from the U.S. Department of Commerce National Textile and Apparel team, the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Initiative Trade Enhancement Act “extends certain provisions provided to Mexico under the NAFTA agreement to the countries of the Caribbean and Central America, thus bringing these two regions into ‘parity.’ The Act specifically calls for all apparel cut and sewn in the countries of the Caribbean and Central America to be allowed importation into the United States duty-free and quota-free so long as they are manufactured with U.S. fabrics, yarns, fibers and threads.”

Alice to idle two plants

EASLEY, SC — Two of four Alice Manufacturing Co. plants here will be closed for the month of August due to inflated inventories and slow orders due to low-cost imports, the company said last week.

As a result, about 500 employees will be out of work until Labor Day.

Alice will suspend production at its Ellison Plant, with about 300 employees, and its 200-employee Arial Plant.

Both plants make unfinished fabric.

Full operations will continue at Alice’s two other plants, each of which employ about 300 people, according to Stan Brooks, director of human resources.

Cheap imports have played a significant role in the production suspension, said Brooks, adding that the furloughs are “unprecedented” by the company.

Johnston Industries inducts 12 into excellence program

COLUMBUS, GA — Johnston Industries, Inc. (JII) inducted 12 employees into the company’s Award of Excellence Program during ceremonies recently at the Country Club of Columbus.

Induction into this company program recognizes individuals whose innovative endeavors, creativity and leadership have made a meaningful difference in the success of the company. Individuals were nominated by January 31 by co-employees, immediate supervisors or another member of management. The nominations were then reviewed by the divisional president and his committee to ensure the nominee satisfies the program’s criteria.

In order to be nominated for this honor, nominees must have shown:

• innovation to the point of creating or improving a process or procedure that positively affects quality production or customer satisfaction while positively affecting the profitability of the corporation;

• responsiveness to customer needs, either internally or externally;

• fostering either self-development or that of fellow employees;

• accomplishment of work assignments; and

• regular job attendance and a positive attitude that shows he or she is thinking and acting like an owner.

Inman Mills awards scholarships

INMAN, SC — Three recent graduates of Upstate South Carolina high schools have been awarded college scholarships by the Inman-Riverdale Foundation. Value of each scholarship is $6,000 per year.

All recipients are dependent children or grandchildren of Inman Mills’ employees.

Michal Jade Hester, a graduate of Dorman High School, plans to attend Presbyterian College in Clinton as a pre-med major. She is the daughter of Mike and Patty Hester. Her father has been employed at the corporate office in Inman.

Jessica Michelle Melton also plans to major in pre-med at Wofford College. A graduate of Woodruff High School, she is the daughter of Jeanie Melton, who is employed at the Mountain Shoals Plant in Enoree.

Jennifer Lynn Cook, a graduate of Chapman High School, plans to study nursing at the University of South Carolina at Spartanburg. Her parents are Tim and Sheila Henson. Henson works at the Saybrook Plant in Inman.

The grants are made annually by the Inman-Riverdale Foundation, which began the program in 1949. They are based on character, aptitude, scholarship and need.

Carolinas Textile Club tourney yields winners

CHARLOTTE, NC — Three players tied for low net and two shared the low gross score during the Carolinas Textile Club’s annual golf outing at The Tradition course here.

Vince Quinn of Dixon Odom, Jack Hinkle of AGFA Film and Rod Chaney of the North Carolina Center for Applied Textile Technology (NCCATT) Foundation Board each fired 72s to earn low net honors.

David Estridge of NCCATT and Frank Graham of McGladrey & Pullen each shot a 78 to tie for low gross. Richard Salisbury of Henricks Corporate Training and Development turned in a 79.

Taylor Young of Capital Factors, Inc. earned the Maximum Effort Award.

Nine teams competed in the event.

Burlington earnings remain flat

BURLINGTON, NC — Fiscal earnings remained flat in the third quarter at Burlington Industries, Inc., which spent the quarter reducing capacity and selling assets to lower inventories.

The company posted net earnings of $1.5 million, or .03 cents per share, unchanged from the same period of last year.

Sales dipped to $351.1 million, compared with $419.8 million in the third quarter of 2000. About $36 million of the sales decline relates to businesses sold or closed in the fiscal year, the company said.

“Market conditions continue to be very difficult,” said Douglas J. McGregor, president and chief operating officer. “Cash flow and debt reduction remain our primary focus. We achieved significant working capital reductions early this year and have continued this quarter, reducing inventories by about $89 million from a year ago and $12 million from March quarter.”

Springs stands out in battered industry

FORT MILL, SC — Springs Industries is heading into private ownership with a solid last set of numbers for public consumption, at least compared to the most of the textile manufacturing industry.

The company turned a profit in the second quarter, albeit a weaker one from the same period last year. Springs made $17 million, down from $19.4 million.

Although sales declined 4.6 percent, to $546.9 million, volume increased to the company’s top 10 customers, according to Crandall C. Bowles, the company’s chairman and CEO.

“Retail conditions in the home furnishings market continued to be impacted by lower consumer spending,” Bowles said. “While sales fell short of our goals, we are pleased that our focus on key accounts resulted in a sales volume increase of 6.7 percent compared to last year with our top 10 customers.”

The company also said that it is making “normal progress” with the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with its bid to be taken private by members of the Close family and Heartland Industrial Partners, L.P. Springs said it expects to hold its shareholder meeting to vote on the transaction about five weeks after it concludes the review process with the SEC.

VF Corporation beats experts’ predictions

GREENSBORO, NC —VF Corp., the world’s largest maker of jeanswear, beat analysts’ expectations for the second quarter by posting a profit of 60 cents per share.

“Our earnings came in better than anticipated, despite the difficult economic and retail environment, and we made great progress toward our inventory reduction goal for the year,” said Mackey J. McDonald, chairman and chief executive officer.

Analysts’ estimates ranged from 54 cents to 58 cents.

Sales slipped to $1.32 billion from $1.33 billion a year earlier.

“Our results in the quarter indicate that we are effectively navigating our way through challenging market conditions,” McDonald said. “Things may be tough, but our brands continue to perform well, a testament to our focus on providing consumers with great products that deliver outstanding value day in and day out.”

G&L sees sharp decline

GREENSBORO, NC — Galey & Lord, Inc. said that earnings in the third quarter were down about 70 percent.

Run-out costs associated with the company’s strategic initiatives figured heavily in to the decline, Galey & Lord said.

“It continues to be a most difficult environment for textiles,” said Arthur C. Wiener, chairman and CEO. “The relative strength of the dollar, along with a difficult domestic retail environment, has continued to put price and volume pressure upon our products. Our denim division performed well in this environment.”

Wiener added that the company expects to report a net loss in the fourth quarter due to continued erosion in its khaki business.

The company made $847,000 and registered sales of $220.2 million, which represented a 16 percent decline.


Week of July 30, 2001

The man behind the ATME-I curtain ...

YOU COULD FILL an exhibition hall with Bob Ellis’ memories of textile machinery shows. After all, you don’t live and breathe something for 34 years without collecting a healthy portion of remembrances.

Ellis recently retired as president and CEO of Textile Hall Corporation,

which has produced the American Textile Machinery Exhibition-International (ATME-I) trade show for years. He had served as longtime director of the quadrennial event for 21 years.

But the title “director” doesn’t do him justice. He was more like “Mr. ATME-I.” Or the “Wizard of ATME-I.” Ellis oversaw much of the planning and preparation in the three years leading up to the shows and pulled many of the strings the week of the shows. And, most of the time, they ran as smooth as a well-oiled loom.

“He knows as much about staging a machinery show as probably anyone in the country or the world,” Bob Coleman, former chairman of Textile Hall Corp., once told a reporter in reference to Ellis.

Ellis shared some of his stories with STN the other day, as you can read in this edition. His fondest memories usually were tinged with humor, which is understandable, if you know him. The affable Ellis enjoys a good laugh and can spin a yarn that will leave you in stitches. And his folksy delivery adds a charming flavor found only below the Mason-Dixon Line.

He once used the term “magnolia drippings” to refer to the brand of Southern hospitality shown by Textile Hall and Palmetto Expo Center staffers — himself notwithstanding, we would add.

NO DOUBT, Ellis was under tremendous pressure during ATME-I weeks, but you would never know it. During many morning press conferences, he would share a humorous anecdote with the media. But even under the critical eye of the press and the scrutiny of exhibitors and visitors, he never seemed to lose his cool.

Sure, in doing his job, he probably made a few enemies along the way. Charged with enforcing the rules, he sometimes had to play hardball, but he handled matters with courtesy and professionalism.

The most recent ATME-I events, in October and April, probably gave him his best chance to lose his composure — but he never did. With attendance flagging compared to previous shows, Ellis often found himself trying to explain the situation or, worse, apologize for it, as if the low turnout — and not the industry’s decline — were his fault.

He remained upbeat at the dais and on the show floor, though he knew these would not rank among the best shows ever. Sometimes, you felt sorry for him as he repeated more than once the mantra “quantity over quality” when talking visitor numbers. Yeah, he would call a spade a spade, but he never left out his “glass-is-half-full” perspective. In short, he handled himself with grace and style.

GIVEN THE events of recent months, it’s no wonder Ellis decided to retire now — although he very well may have been planning such a move for awhile. The future of ATME-I remains a mystery and its longtime home, the Palmetto Expo Center, has just been sold by financially strapped Textile Hall Corp. to the City of Greenville.

Under those circumstances, even Ellis’ future in the trade show business may have been cloudy, so why not get out while the getting was good? Let the younger folks fight this one out.

After all, he has grandchildren to spoil, tennis to play and Clemson Tigers to follow.

And many more memories to make.