Week of September 3, 2001

You don't say:
Stowe doesn’t waste words

By Devin Steele

BELMONT, NC — D. Harding Stowe, president and CEO of R.L. Stowe Mills, Inc., Belmont, NC, and president of the American Yarn Spinners Association (AYSA), doesn’t have to say that business conditions in the U.S. sales yarn industry are some of the worst ever.

D. Harding Stowe

He doesn’t have to say much more than “yes” when asked if U.S. companies’ involvement in the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act has been slower than anticipated.

He doesn’t even have to say why he would be disappointed if business doesn’t increase in CBI countries after the final rules are hammered out.

Some things are just understood.

And with Stowe, a private man running a private company, you understand.

With his AYSA presidency drawing to a close, he responded to submitted questions in a rather generalized, concise fashion. In some cases, the questions were longer than the answers.

But you get where he’s coming from. You just do.

So why should he say more?

Business is bad. CBI is grounded (for now at least). And who in his position wouldn’t be disappointed if CBI involvement doesn’t take off?

Without going into great detail, Stowe did, however, list a couple of AYSA accomplishments during his term that stand out, such as: “Working with (executive vice president) Jim Conner to help resolve the standoff on CBI rules.”

And: “An agreement was reached with the Senate, the White House, the Treasury Department and trade groups on the rules.”

He also responded to a question about AYSA activities: “AYSA has continued through its committee structure to work on issues such as safety, the environment and government affairs. Specifically, we have opposed and (AYSA staffer) Mike Hubbard attends hearings on the proposed Clean Smokestack bill in Raleigh.”

In perhaps his most fervent responses, Stowe offered comments about his expected successor and AYSA staffers.

“It was a pleasure to work with Charles (Little Jr.) and I admire his work ethic and attention to detail,” he said. “Jim Conner is stepping back to an advisory position on trade and Mike Hubbard will be assuming the duties of executive director. All members need to tell Jim ‘thank you’ for all he has done and support Mike in the future.”

Stowe’s answers are appreciated, however. Certainly, given market conditions, he has had one of the most difficult jobs of any AYSA president in years, so feeding the press only the bare minimum may be the tactful thing to do at this point.

Perhaps he is holding back for now, but is planning to expound upon those views to AYSA members, face to face, during his President’s Address at the group’s annual meeting this week.

He’s not saying.

The ‘conscience of the industry’

Week of August 27, 2001

After three decades, AYSA
executive VP set to retire

Editor’s note: Following is an exclusive interview with Jim H. Conner, executive vice president of the American Yarn Spinners Association (AYSA), Gastonia, NC. Conner, who began his 30th year with the association on July 1, plans to retire from his current position soon, but is expected to remain with the organization in an advisory capacity. He is expected to be succeeded by Mike Hubbard, who Conner has been grooming for the position for about a year.

STN: How has the association changed in three decades?

Conner: When I joined the association, we had three functional product groups encompassing producers of carded cotton yarn, combed cotton yarn and synthetic and blends. There were five standing committees: Economic Stabilization, Management Services, Manufacturing Services, Safety and Health and Yarn Rules. AYSA had one affiliation arrangement with the Association of Synthetic Yarn Manufacturers.

Jim Conner, executive vice president of the American Yarn Spinners Association, spends much of his time staying in touch with members. After a stellar career at the helm, he plans to retire from the post in the coming weeks. Photo by Devin Steele.
Jim Conner, executive vice president of the American Yarn Spinners Association, spends much of his time staying in touch with members. After a stellar career at the helm, he plans to retire from the post in the coming weeks. Photo by Devin Steele

Over the next several years, the committee structure underwent a number of changes and today there are 10 standing committees covering Cotton, Environmental Issues, Finishing, Home Furnishings and Carpet, International Trade, Management Services, Manmade Fiber, Marketing Services, Safety and Health and Technical Services. These are in addition to the Budget Committee, Executive Committee and Political Action Committee.

Over the years, affiliate membership grew to include the AYS Self-Insurers Fund, American Textile Export Company, Carolinas Textile Club, Craft Yarn Council of America, Southern Textile Association, Textured Yarn Association of America and the Textile Quality Control Association. Several others were merged into AYSA over the years, including the Long Staple Yarn Association, the Carpet Yarn Association, the Association of Synthetic Yarn Manufacturers and the Dyed Yarn Association.

STN: Given the number of changes that has occurred, how has your role changed?

Conner: My role changed with the growth and expansion of the association to include additional functions and groups. However, the core role of the executive vice president remains to focus on issues related to sales yarn companies.

Since being founded in 1967 with the merger of the Combed Yarn Association and the Carded Yarn Association, the guiding principles for evaluating AYSA programs and activities have not changed: Does the program contribute to a better informed member? Does the program contribute to better understanding of the industry by those not directly involved, i.e., government, customer groups and the public? Does the program increase the association’s capability to act responsibly for the industry?

STN: How has AYSA’s staff changed over the years to handle the increased activity?

Conner: Since 1972 the staff has been increased by only one person, i.e. from four to five individuals, including me. Much of the routine work has been computerized, leaving more time for personal interaction with members and other stakeholders. AYSA’s internal structure permits diversification of issues to those members most affected and the flexibility to quickly move issues through the decision-making process.

Three of our five staff members have more than 70 years of combined service to AYSA. That accounts for a lot of longevity and a lot of on-the-job training on issues unknown 30 years ago.

STN: What would you say is the organization’s biggest success under your leadership?

Conner: AYSA has had many successes in a broad range of endeavors that cannot be attributed to any one individual’s leadership, much less mine. There are some unique areas of which I am particularly proud to have been associated with. AYSA initiated a number of successful anti-dumping and countervailing duty actions going back to the 1970s and I believe the sales yarn industry was the first sector of the textile industry to obtain relief under the trade laws, with the 1977 decision imposing countervailing duties on cotton yarn from Brazil.

In 1974 AYSA organized the first of several overseas trade missions to Europe and was the first Industry Organized Government Approved Trade Mission to the Peoples Republic of China of any industry. Other export promotion efforts included organization of the American Textile Export Company, participation in overseas trade shows and involvement with negotiations that led to the NAFTA, CBI and AGOA legislation.

AYSA was recognized in 1980 as a recipient of the President’s E Award for Export Service and again in 1989 with the President’s E-Star Award.

To create a better understanding of production costs for new technology, the association sponsored several independent studies in the 1970s on the comparative manufacturing costs of ring versus open-end spinning and the effect of yarn count changes on costs of producing carpet yarns. These studies were especially useful in helping member firms evaluate investment in new equipment.

Association-sponsored research on potential dust emissions from spinning operations resulted in several states adopting General Permits under the Clean Air Act, which simplified compliance for yarn-spinning operations from otherwise onerous and expensive Title V permitting requirements.

Over the years, international trade issues consumed a greater amount of AYSA staff time and resources than any other activity. This has been the most rewarding, as well as the most frustrating activity of my career. Frustrating because of the inequities of international trade.

STN: How did you get interested in government and trade affairs?

Conner: My interest in governmental affairs began in college, during which time I worked for the Georgia Highway Department and as Student Body President testified before agencies involved in designating land for urban renewal-land needed for expansion of the Georgia State University campus. I was involved in Senator Herman Talmadge’s campaign for the Senate in the 1950s and served as president of our university’s Young Democrat Club.

My first real exposure to foreign matters was as a representative from Georgia State University to the Auburn Conference on International Affairs during my senior year. This particular conference focused on Latin American issues, which continued to be an area of personal interest over the years. From there, I think I had a better understanding of the impact geo-political issues have on trade policy.

STN: How would you compare the 1974-75 downturn with current business conditions in the textile industry?

Conner: Without question, the last two years have been the most difficult for the textile industry during my career. The 1974-75 recession was a period sometimes described as the worse since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In retrospect, it was a mild downturn compared to current business conditions.

Perhaps the greatest difference between then and now is the debt service burden carried by many textile companies today. Profitability, or the lack thereof, is simply not adequate in today’s market to sustain the industry’s capital formation requirements. In my view, the survivors will be those companies with the lowest debt-to-asset ratio, the technology in place to realize maximum cost efficiencies and a marketing plan flexible enough to meet ever-changing customer demands.

STN: What are some of the biggest challenges facing yarn spinners today?

Conner: While each company has its own unique challenges based on markets served, technology employed, fibers used, etc., three challenges appear to be at the forefront. Of particular concern is the declining domestic customer base for sales yarn.

Second, as already indicated, is achieving a level of profitability that will permit the capital formation required to keep up with technology advances. Finally is the formidable challenge of adjusting to globalization of the fiber, textile, and apparel markets.

Conner’s expected successor …

Week of August 27, 2001

prepared to tackle challenge

By Devin Steele

GASTONIA, NC — The resolve and “stick-to-itiveness” of domestic yarn spinners have impressed Mike Hubbard.

And that’s a good perception to have of an industry that you are soon expected to lead. Hubbard is in line to be voted in as executive vice president of the American Yarn Spinners of America (AYSA) this week during its annual meeting at Sea Island, GA. He would succeed Jim H. Conner, who has led the organization for 30 years and is planning to retire soon, but who plans to continue in an advisory capacity.

Mike Hubbard acknowledged that he has big footsteps to follow in Jim Conner’s — but he said he is prepared for the challenge
Mike Hubbard acknowledged that he has big footsteps to follow in Jim Conner’s — but he said he is prepared for the challenge.

Beginning his second year on the AYSA staff this week, Hubbard has crammed himself full of information about the industry by working side-by-side with Conner, visiting plants and meeting members. And he is learning the sector in some of its darkest hours.

His impressions?

“A slow economy is challenging and intimidating, but what I’ve seen of these companies inspires a great deal of confidence,” Hubbard said. “They’ve been through tough times before and they have survived by their creativity and flexibility. This association’s greatest resource is the leadership of the member companies. They know how to survive and what needs to be done.”

Hubbard, 33, acknowledges that he has big footsteps to follow in Conner’s. But, he added, he is prepared for the challenge and intends to serve the group with the same gusto and aplomb as his predecessor.

He brings to the post quite an impressive track record in governmental affairs and such experience is a plus — no, a must — for someone who will represent the organization’s cause on all matters legislative.

When asked why he jumped at the opportunity to serve in this capacity, he returned to his sentiments about the industry’s survivor mentality.

“When I was considering the position, the yarn manufacturers intrigued me because they have managed to survive, despite intense foreign competition and a tough global economic environment,” he said. “I am somewhat awed by the ability shown by yarn manufacturers to figure out how to compete with foreign manufacturers whose labor costs are a fraction of those in the U.S.”

Conner as mentor

Hubbard said he couldn’t be learning the ropes under anyone better than Conner.

“Jim Conner is a great mentor and his knowledge of the industry is encyclopedic — he knows the industry inside and out,” Hubbard said. “One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from him is the importance of communication. Issues arise all the time and the first thing Jim does is ask the members what they think. Sometimes we can guess rather easily what their responses will be, but not always.

“For this association to remain valuable to the members, we need to know what everybody is thinking about every issue that comes before us. In addition, I’ve learned how important it is to stay on top of the day-to-day operations of the association.”

Asked how tough it will be to succeed a textile industry “legend” — Conner was named by Textile World as one of the industry’s most influential people of the 20th century — Hubbard replied, “frankly, pretty tough. “I have some big shoes to fill. He has been here for nearly 30 years and the members know and like him. Fortunately for me, he has been a good teacher and I know where to find him after he’s gone. I think I’ll be fine in the position, but it’s a real comfort to know that I can ask him questions whenever necessary.

“In addition, by meeting the members through visits to the mills and at other events, I understand the members better as individual people and companies. This makes my job a lot easier.”

Effective communication is essential to the success of AYSA, Hubbard added.

“My challenge is to listen to my members and put what they say into action,” he said. “I also need to maintain the good working relationship that Jim Conner has established with other trade associations to maintain the most effective voice in Washington.”

Visiting member companies has opened Hubbard’s eyes to how yarn spinners are reacting to today’s challenges, he said.

“I have been amazed at the variety of thought and the survival and growth strategies employed by the individual companies,” he said. “The quality of the leadership in the member companies is truly amazing.”

Yarn manufacturers, Hub-bard has learned, have focused a great deal of effort during the last few years to modernize and streamline operations, and the resulting improvements in productivity are a real asset to those companies now.

“However, weakness throughout the industry, including our knitting and weaving customers, is beginning to make itself felt in the spinning sector,” he said. “Poor retail sales and serious import pressures are impacting every sector of the textile industry. An improvement in the retail sector will benefit yarn and fabric manufacturers.”

The son also rises

Week of August 27, 2001

Charles Little in line to follow in dad’s
footsteps as Yarn Spinners president

By Ron Copsey

GREENVILLE, SC — The son of a former president of the American Yarn Spinners Association (AYSA) — whose childhood included playing in cotton warehouses and riding with truck drivers delivering yarn to customers of the family business, Little Cotton Manufacturing Co. — is expected to be elected president of AYSA at its 34th annual meeting this week at Sea Island, GA.

Charles L. Little Jr., president of the Yarn Division of Mount Vernon Mills, is in line to be elevated from first vice president and succeed Harding Stowe, CEO of R.L. Stowe Mills, Belmont, NC.

Charles L. Little Jr., president of the Yarn Division of Mount Vernon Mills, is in line to be elevated to president of the American Yarn Spinners Association this week. Photo by Ron Copsey.

A native of Wadesboro, NC, Little is the son of the late Charles L. Little Sr. who was the second president of AYSA after it was formed in 1967. “My father was instrumental in the merging of the Combed Yarn Association and Carded Yarn Association to form AYSA,” Little said.

Upon completion of the merger, carded, combed and synthetics/blends product groups were established.

This is the first time in AYSA history that both a father and son have served as its president. “We have had several sons as president of AYSA whose fathers were president of AYSA predecessor organizations,” said Jim Conner, AYSA executive vice president.

AYSA is the national trade association of the sales yarn industry in the United States. Its membership includes more than 100 corporations who operate more than 300 yarn-spinning, texturing, mercerizing and dyeing plants. AYSA members produce spun yarn on the ring spinning, woolen and worsted, open-end, air-jet and modified worsted systems from virtually all natural and manmade fibers. The membership also produces thrown and textured filament yarns.

Under Little’s direction, Mount Vernon’s Yarn Division produces singles, plied and character yarns in cotton, rayon and blends for knitters, weavers and dyers. Mount Vernon’s yarns are used in home furnishings, woven apparel, hosiery, fleece and sweater products. The company produces both ring and open-end sales yarn.

Mount Vernon’s Alto Plant in Alto, GA, recently completed a $10 million installation of the latest yarn-making capabilities. The upgrade included the industry’s newest integrated “Link-Spun” ring spinning system.

In addition to selling its own yarn, Mount Vernon represents three other yarn producers. They include: Richmond Yarns, Ellerbe, NC; Paola Yarn Mill, Statesville, NC; and Spintex & Lanatex, Toronto, Canada.

STN submitted a list of questions for Little as he plans his presidential year. His responses follow.

STN: What goals have you established for AYSA when you become president?

Little: First, to maintain and enhance the strong solidarity the organization enjoys as the voice of the yarn community. Second, to work closely with all related organizations with regards to international trade issues to strengthen our voice in Washington. And, lastly, to effectively communicate to the membership the important aspects of current and future trade legislation initiatives and their impact on our industry and individual member companies.

STN: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best, how would you rate current business conditions and why?

Little: Current business conditions rank a numerical grade of 1. The textile industry is in a recession of unparalleled magnitude. The dramatic loss of market share to Asian imports, coupled with a serious weakness in retail sales, has had a devastating impact on our industry. Corporate bankruptcies, plant closings, major employee reductions and drastically reduced operating schedules bear witness to the difficult business environment the textile business currently faces.

STN: What are some of the biggest challenges facing yarn spinners today?

Little: The biggest challenge to our yarn industry is the challenge individual companies face positioning themselves for anticipated market needs and demands and by rapidly effecting the necessary changes within their companies. The dramatic loss of domestic customers, financial health of our remaining customer base, export opportunities and especially the anticipated benefits of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) legislation must all be constantly evaluated to provide strategic direction.

STN: What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of the domestic yarn industry in this business environment?

Little: Overall, the domestic yarn industry is especially well-tooled with modern equipment to be a high-quality and low-cost producer. At the same time, this strength is also a weakness. Change and flexibility will become increasingly important as needed assets to offer value to our customers.

STN: Please discuss AYSA’s involvement in getting members up-to-speed on the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBI)?

Little: The dissemination of information and the seminars by AYSA have been to get members up-to-speed on the U.S.-CBI Act. This is an ongoing process, as the final form of CBI may yet be reshaped in Washington by further legislation.

STN: Has company involvement in CBI since October 1, 2000 been slower than you had anticipated, and if so, what have been some of the holdups?

Little: CBI activity to date has been very adversely affected by the marked slow down in the retail sector. However, much of the framework for accelerating trade with the CBI has been greatly enhanced during this first year. Finalization of CBI legislation and customs rules will in itself jump-start trade volume. The benefits of CBI will only further be strengthened by an uptick in retail activity. We feel strongly U.S. textile, apparel and retail companies will accelerate CBI activities in the future.

STN: Do you see CBI as a make-or-break opportunity for the yarn spinning sector and its suppliers?

Little: CBI is extraordinarily important to the yarn-spinning sector and our suppliers. Knit apparel has especially declined in the U.S. Significant market share lost to Asian countries will be regained as CBI develops.

Deal struck

Week of August 27, 2001

Consolidated ATME-I on tap for
Greenville in ’04, Atlanta in ’06

By Alfred Dockery

After nearly two years of controversy, the future of the American Textile Machinery Exhibition–International (ATME-I) is clear.

Kurt Scholler

Last week the American Textile Machinery Association (ATMA) and Textile Hall Corp. (THC), co-sponsors of the show, announced that ATME-I will drop its split fall/spring format and become one consolidated show.

ATME-I will take place one more time at Greenville’s Palmetto Exposition Center in September 2004, then the show will move to Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center in September 2006.

All parties agree that consolidating the split shows into one that covers the entire range of textile processes has advantages. For one, it reduces the number of textile trade shows, which has been a source of growing complaints from textile technology vendors.

“It fulfills the need for fewer shows,” said Kurt Scholler, ATMA chairman and president and CEO of American Truetzschler. “We’ll have no more split shows. I think that everybody in the textile world has agreed that they didn’t want any more split shows, and they want a reduction in the number of shows.”

A larger show may give the industry an improved public perception. Including more of the U.S. textile industries should also be a plus.

Richard Heusel

“We hope that the consolidated show’s increased interest and influence will bring awareness of the importance of the industry,” said Richard Heusel, Textile Hall Chairman and CEO of KM Fabrics. “The industry is not dead in the United States. It is regrouping, looking for other products to produce.

“Now, finally, we can refocus and have a forum for the entire industry. It has more of an opportunity to be united. Whatever needs to be done economically or politically has a better chance of accomplishment.”

Once ATME-I goes to Atlanta in 2006, ATMA and THC officials said they plan to expand the show dramatically to include as many textile industry segments as possible. The groups have been talking to other textile trade associations to see if they have an interest in joining the 2006 show.

Those talks are still in progress and announcements will be made as the details are worked out.

“It will be more than shows primarily aimed at textiles for apparel. It will serve more industry segments than ATME-I has served before,” said Harry Buzzerd Jr., ATMA President.

“We want more people involved. We don’t intend to infringe on the turfs of other shows or associations but we do intend to collaborate with them and accommodate the changing profile of the industries that we serve.”

Show organizers said they also hope that the move and expansion will lure more South American visitors to ATME-I.

Consolidating the show, however, leaves one major stumbling block —shoehorning a combined ATME-I 2004 into the Palmetto Expo Center’s 368,000 square feet of exhibit space. Even given the textile machinery industry’s consolidation of the last few years, this may be a major feat and is the reason that the split-show format endured for so long.

For comparison’s sake, England’s National Exhibition Centre, site of the ITMA 2003 textile machinery show, has about 1,722,000 square feet of exhibit space and the Georgia World Congress Center has 950,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Bobbin World

Week of August 27, 2001

Internet, digital technology examined

By Alfred Dockery

ORLANDO, FL — Bobbin World held recently at the Orange County Convention Center here had a strong turnout, with more than 13,500 visitors — including buyers, suppliers and contractors — from throughout the world.

More than 80 countries were represented and 31 percent of the buyers were from outside the United States, representing a 10 percent increase in international buyer attendance.

The show’s promotional theme “Windows To Your World” was designed to attract buyers and suppliers from all segments of the sewn products industry, including: apparel; upholstered furniture; home textiles; transportation interiors; leather goods and footwear; technical textiles; fabric and trims; and services. The Bobbin trade shows have definitely moved beyond just apparel to include the entire sewn products industry.

Workshops and seminars covered industry-relevant topics, including supply chain management, information technology, manufacturing management and embellishment. International Outlook sessions were new this year and led by national representatives, who gave insight regarding sourcing and manufacturing opportunities available in their countries.

The role of the Internet in selling apparel products to consumers was a particularly significant seminar at Bobbin World. Speakers shared the experiences of three major apparel makers: Speedo, Maidenform and Oshkosh B’Gosh in launching business-to-consumer (B2C) Web sites.

Oshkosh B’Gosh had the most dramatic story to tell. Its Web-hosting partner went out of business and the company had to migrate its complex Web site to a new application service provider in a tight, six-month time frame. Although Oshkosh B’Gosh had to go through the Web development and launch process twice, company management said it still believe it was a smart move to go to the Web for additional customers.

“We treat our Web site like (our other outlet) stores, except it is a store on the Web,” said Jon Dell’Antonia, vice president of Management Information Systems/CIO, Oshkosh B’Gosh, Inc. “We have been pleased with the volume. It has been way above our expectations. We hope that it will become a substantial business for us. I’m talking in the $10 million to $40 million per year range.”

The Digital Zone

The Digital Zone, created by Textile/Clothing Technology Corp., [TC]2, has established itself as a powerful technology showcase within the Bobbin trade shows. Here, 14 companies showcased digital solutions for applications throughout the supply chain including: Browzwear, DataSavvy, Eton Systems, Gerber Technology, IPSOS-NPD, Lectra, Methods Workshop, Nester Software, New Generation Computing, Pulse Microsystems, Scanvec Garment Systems, Shima Seiki, [TC]2 and Vertical Threads.

Four principle technologies were addressed.

• Digital fitting: [TC]2’s newest 3-D body scanner with integrated changing rooms showcased the made-to-measure apparel process. Pattern alteration and virtual try-on systems were also shown;

• Digital product development: Innovative companies, including Gerber Technology, Lectra and Nester, showed how users can take the design process from concept through development, specification, manufacture and on to retail consumers in digital form;

• Digital printing: This technology emphasized consumer interaction with product coloration and design choices; and

• Digital knitting: The Shima Seiki WholeGarment knitting system demonstrated consumer interaction with design aspects of the knitting process.

Upstate S.C. woes

Week of August 27, 2001

Layoffs and plant idlings announced

The Upstate region of South Carolina, considered by many as the hub of the U.S. textile industry, continues to be hammered by the industry’s woes.

Last week, a polyester producer, a textile parts manufacturer and a mill all made unpleasant announcements.

KoSa to lay off 120 employees

SPARTANBURG, SC — KoSa said last week it will lay off 120 of its 650 employees at its polyester manufacturing plant here.

The company blamed the furloughs on Asian competition and tough market conditions. The layoffs are expected to begin in November, according to reports.

A KoSa spokesperson said the company hopes to call back the affected employees if and when business conditions improve.

Polyester staple, the filling used in such items as coats and sleeping bags, is manufactured at the plant.

Officials said the Spartanburg plant is currently the only one the company is planning to downsize.

The plant, opened in the late 1960s by Hoescht AG, was bought by KoSa in 1988.

KoSa, based in Houston, has 9,000 employees in 16 manufacturing sites in six countries. The company is the largest producer of high-performance polyester staple in North America.

Steel Heedle files for bankruptcy

GREENVILLE, SC — Steel Heddle, a textile parts manufacturer founded here more than a century ago by German and Swiss immigrants, said Wednesday that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company plans to keep its 443 employees while it sells its two lines of business, according to reports. Those business include weaving accessory manufacturing, with plants in Greenville, SC, Greensboro, NC and Mexico; and a flattened metal wire manufacturing, with a plant in Westminster, SC.

A deal is pending for the weaving accessory business and talks are occurring for the sale of the wire unit, according to Robert W. Dillon, company president.

According to bankruptcy papers, the company cited assets of $64.3 million and a debt of $176 million.

The company has been strapped by $150 million to $160 million in long-term debt related to its 1998 purchase by American Industrial Partners, a San Francisco-based private equity firm, Dillon said.

The company has released about 150 employees over the past three years as its textile machinery business has soured.

Steel Heddle, founded in 1898, was closely held by members of the founding families and other individuals for its first 90 years.

Also filing bankruptcy in the Upstate region recently were fabric makers Mayfair Mills Inc. and JPS Apparel Fabrics Corp.

TNS Mills to idle plant ‘temporarily’

GREER, SC — TNS Mills said Monday that it is temporarily closing a 120-employee yarn manufacturing facility here.

Earlier in August, the Greenville, SC-based company announced it would be temporarily laying off more than 70 people at two of its plants in Cherokee County of South Carolina.

The company blamed the moves on the stagnant economy and cheap textile imports.

TNS manufactures 100 percent cotton and cotton/polyester blended yarns; 100 percent cotton and blended fabrics; plain weaves; sateens and twills; and nonwoven fabrics.


Week of August 27, 2001

Withington served Ashworth

GREENVILLE, SC — Charles Coolidge Withington Jr., who worked as a salesman for Ashworth Brothers, Inc. for 40 years, died August 20 at his home following a brief illness.

Withington, who was 76, had worked with Inman Mills and J.P. Stevens before joining Ashworth. He graduated from Clemson College with a degree in textile engineering in 1948.

A veteran of World War II, Withington received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantry Badge, Sharpshooter.

He is survived by his wife, Hamlin; two daughters; three sons; nine grandchildren; three sisters; and a brother.

Hertwig founded Eastbank

MACON, GA — Charles C. Hertwig Jr., chairman and CEO of Eastbank Trading Company, died August 6.

Hertwig, 73, founded Eastbank in 1976 after he had been with Bibb Manufacturing Co. for nearly 25 years.

Eastbank is in the business of supplying industrial fabrics for end uses such as mechanical rubber goods and camouflage fabrics for hunting clothes and accessories.

“Charlie was my mentor and friend for 33 years and we will miss his leadership and vision,” said John B. Fry, company president. “He built a strong company with good people and we will continue his open-minded approach to working with suppliers and customers to build relationships that benefit all concerned.”

Hertwig is survived by his wife, Sara Beth, and a son, Hansel, both of whom are active in the company; another son, Curtis; and five grand- children.

Mill news

Week of August 27, 2001

Inman honors healthy employees

INMAN, SC — Six employees of Inman Mills, three in the Inman Division and three in the Enoree Division, have been named winners in Healthfest 2000-2001, a program that promoted healthy lifestyles among Inman employees.

Winners logged mileage by walking regularly for a year.

Presented first place awards of $500 were Sandra Lawson, Inman Division, a systems analyst in the corporate office here; and Norris Spurgeon, a carding technician at the Riverdale Plant in Enoree, SC, Enoree Division. Both are previous winners in the competition, held annually since 1996.

Second place prizes of $250 went to Phyllis Spicer, Inman Division, a fiber technician in the cotton lab; and Albert Culbertson, a maintenance employee at the Mountain Shoals Plant, Enoree Division. They also have been winners in the previous contests.

Bobby Dover, another previous winner, and Alan Stroud claimed third prizes of $100 each. Dover works in the corporate office as an accountant and Stroud is a management trainee at the Mountain Shoals Plant in Enoree.

“The health and well-being of our people remain a top priority at Inman Mills,” said Chapman, company president. “The wellness program we offer for all employees emphasizes active participation and rewards those who devote time and energy to those efforts. Their dedication encourages others.”

Shuford plant cited for quality system

HUDSON, NC — The Hudson Cloth Plant of Shuford Mills, Inc. was recently notified that it had achieved the distinction of having an ISO 9002 registered quality system..

The notification was received from Charles N. Howell, executive director of American Quality Assessors in Columbia, SC.

Plant employees and members of management were presented the certificate by Allen Barwick, company president. Special recognition for their contributions to the successful implementation of the quality system was given to Gary Walker, corporate quality assurance director; Danny Bean, plant manager of the Hickory Spinners facility; and Jacob Smith, process engineer.

The Hudson Cloth Plant took advantage of consultation classes offered here by the Industrial Extension Service of North Carolina State University. Classes were held on a weekly basis over a period of several months to help plant personnel develop their quality system.

The Hudson Cloth Plant produces scrim fabrics, medical fabrics and the Outdura product line of solution-dyed acrylic fabrics for marine, awning and outdoor furniture applications.

Shuford Mills is based in Hickory, NC.

Family has given 250 years of service

HARTWELL, GA — Talk about loyalty: One family has given Springs Industries a whopping 250 years of service.

Eight of nine Stovall family members — seven children and their parents — have worked for the company’s plants here.

The patriarch, William Tannie Stovall, completed 52 years with the company, while his wife, Dollie, who made a career of child-rearing, worked briefly in the spinning room.

Today, the clan has narrowed to three children — James Stovall, Joyce Stovall Lanier and Barbara Carter, the latter of whom never worked for the company.

“Our family was so close that when our mother died on Saturday, June 10, 1989, our father had a heart attack and died the next Saturday, June 17,” Joyce Stovall Lanier said.

James Stovall, who retired in April after serving 56 years, recalls the years when the plants were known as Hartwell Mills. “The Hartwell Mills would run when the other places would shut down,” James said.

The Stovall family tradition continued when James married. His now ex-wife, Sarah, worked at the plant for 35 years, while his son, Curtis, worked more than six years and his daughter, Miriam, worked about three years as a teenager.

James’ sister Joyce, is still employed with Springs and is nearing her 50-year service anniversary.

Upon reflection, the siblings stressed the value their parents placed on dedication and loyalty. They also expressed gratitude, as Joyce explained, for “having a place to work where people care not only about what you produce, but about you.”

STN Index