Week of October 21, 2002

Textile Belt adds notch: Specialty fabrics show

By Devin Steele

ROSEVILLE, MN — The specialty fabrics segment of the industry is bringing a bustin’-at-the-seams show to the Textile Belt this week.

A record number of exhibitors will be on hand when IFAI Expo 2002 is staged Thursday through Saturday at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, NC. The annual trade show, organized by the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), has enlisted nearly 500 companies to showcase their goods and services. In addition, organizers said they are expecting a milestone mark to be achieved with visitor numbers.

As of last week, 493 exhibitors were scheduled, shattering the record for reserved booths in the show’s 90-year history. Companies will feature products and services from both traditional and emerging specialty fabrics markets, including sporting goods, fabric structures, marine fabrication, safety and protective, medical, transportation, filtration and signage.

Early visitor numbers show 1,000 more pre-registered visitors than any other IFAI exposition, planners said. Among VIP Pass users who are pre-registered, 51 percent will be first-time guests, they added.

Also, pre-registered participants represent 36 countries, according to Susan Larson, IFAI vice president of conference management.

“Charlotte’s location in the heart of the textile industry makes it the perfect venue for North America’s largest annual specialty fabrics event,” said IFAI President Stephen M. Warner. “IFAI Expo 2002 has seen an increase of new technologies in the areas of safety and protective, medical, sporting goods and graphic developments related to fabric.”

Essentially, specialty (or industrial) fabrics are materials created for specific applications where the performance characteristic — not fashion appeal — is the primary criterion for selection. The specialty fabrics industry covers thousands of unique applications for textiles.

Specialty fabrics are comprised of four variables, combining to make an equation that can result in an infinite number of types of materials: fiber + yarn + structure + finish = specialty fabric.

Each variable from the formula is carefully selected to perform in a specific way, the end result of their combination producing a specialty fabric engineered for its intended end use.

Scheduled for Wednesday are two pre-conference events — The Textile Technology Forum, organized with The Textile Institute, and the 3rd International Conference on Safety & Protective Fabrics, hosted by the Safety and Protective Products Division of IFAI.

The Textile Technology Forum will feature industry-leading experts and academia presenting timely research, new application methods and unique technical findings associated with the global technical fabrics industry.

Highlighting the safety conference will be a keynote presentation by Dr. David Prezant, deputy chief medical officer from the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Health Services. Prezant, who responded to the collapse of the World Trade Towers, will speak on a medical monitoring and treatment program that he initiated for New York Fire Department firefighters.

The program, which is funded by New York Fire Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is helping to advance the areas of firefighter burn injury treatment, inhalation injury treatment, exercise capacity in modern firefighting uniforms, health/fitness training and the prevention of life-threatening injuries.

Also, IFAI has organized 77 diverse educational programs and 89 unique presentations that will provide cutting-edge information to help expand and promote specialty fabrics businesses and the industry as a whole.

The educational programs will provide specific information on the following specialty fabric market segments: awning; sports and recreation products; transportation; medical textiles; construction; marine fabrication; business development; signs and graphics; filtration; architectural structures; equipment and technologies; and safety and protective.

IFAI Expo 2002 also will feature prominent keynote speakers. In his Thursday presentation, “The Ethical Business — The Secrets of Long-Term Strength,” Tom Morris, Ph.D., will share his views on the importance of making more consistently ethical decisions during challenging times.

Friday, Gary Heil will present ideas on how to attract and retain valuable employees in his keynote session “For the Love of the Game — The Art of Leading an Inspired Team.”

“I hope that visitors take away the knowledge that through their participation in IFAI Expo 2002, they are supporting the entire textile industry,” Larson said. “IFAI Expo 2002 participants have the opportunity to gather new ideas, concepts and products from the diverse group of exhibitors and educational programs.

“It’s important to note that this event would not be as strong as it is without the support and coordination efforts by IFAI’s members.”

IFAI has more than 2,100 member companies, including 18 percent outside the U.S.

“IFAI members benefit through networking within an organization that constantly works to improve their industry, as well as through a number of services IFAI provides,” Warner said.


Week of October 21, 2002

Speakers face off on trade issues

Jock Nash (foreground), Washington counsel for Milliken & Co., answers a question for an audience member during the Q&A session of AATCC’s business and marketing conference. Looking on are Jim Leonard III (L), deputy assistant secretary of commerce for textiles, apparel and consumer goods; and Ron Daugherty, owner of thread maker Miami Thread, Drexel, NC, and a Democratic 10th District Congressional candidate.
Photo by Devin Steele

By Devin Steele

CHARLOTTE, NC — The American Association of Textile Chemists & Colorists (AATCC) organized one of the industry’s most lively discussions this year during its recent International Conference & Exhibition (IC&E) here this month.

During its business and marketing conference session, the Research Triangle Park, NC-based organization brought together three textile-rooted individuals with varying perspectives on the issue of trade.

The speakers — Jim Leonard III, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for textiles, apparel and consumer goods; Jock Nash, Washington counsel for Milliken & Co.; and Ron Daugherty, owner of thread maker Miami Thread, Drexel, NC, and a Democratic 10th District Congressional candidate — each presented their case before taking questions as a panel.

Not surprisingly, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was the hot-button issue of the day, with Nash and Daugherty arguing against the deal and Leonard extolling its merits, with a few caveats.

Nash, who followed Leonard, disconnected the electrifying charge of the session by calling the former Burlington Industries executive a longtime friend with whom he has fought common trade negotiation battles around the world.

“He knows the industry as well as anybody on the planet,” Nash said of Leonard. “The biggest difference between Jim Leonard and me is he works for President Bush and I work for Roger Milliken.”

However, during the Q&A session, Nash and Daugherty did throw a couple of verbal punches in Leonard’s direction.

“Is there anyone here, or is it only me, who’s somehow offended when we are relegated to niches in our own domestic market?” Nash asked the audience, referring to earlier comments by Leonard regarding the industry’s changing paradigm.

Daugherty, meanwhile, responded to an anecdote Leonard told about visiting a thriving apparel manufacturing plant in California and the reasons for its staying power.

“As far as the fate of the textile/apparel industry tomorrow, if it’s going to be small factories that are a small portion of the size of this room, and they’re going to be filled with minimum wage workers, what are we coming to?” Daugherty asked. “I’d be ashamed to make that remark.”

Daugherty ‘ticked’

Ron Daugherty, owner of Miami Thread, is no fan of NAFTA.

Daugherty is running for Congress because of trade policies such as NAFTA that have decimated his industry, he said when he announced his candidacy earlier this year. He is challenging 16-year incumbent Republican Cass Ballenger.

“In his introductory remarks, (moderator) Phil (Goodman of Boehme Filatex) should have said, ‘Ron’s ticked,’ ” said Daugherty, a 30-year textile industry veteran who spoke first. “If I sound angry, there’s a good reason for that. I am angry.”

He then covered a list of “NAFTA myths” he culled from a newspaper article.

“We are, in our own hemisphere, in the process today of expanding NAFTA from three to 31 countries,” he said. “Ross Perot just might have been right 10 years ago. How many factories are left? Well, if it sucked out the amount of factories and number of jobs that it did with NAFTA, it’s going to suck out whatever is left and we’re going to be left with a mere pittance of industry. It will be like the sailor holding on to a plank in the middle of the ocean.”

Because textiles and apparel aren’t glamour industries, they have and will continue to be sacrificed in the name of free trade, he said.

“We don’t make bulldozers, we don’t make airplanes, we don’t exchange financial instruments that help you make money over the Internet without getting your fingernails dirty,” he said. “We’re not on Wall Street — we’re on Main Street.”

Daugherty challenged attendees to get involved in the political process.

“They’ll continue to shove these trade agreements down your throat until you decide to do something about it,” he said. “Do not wait for Washington to do anything about it, because they will not do anything.

“We can change these things. We can change policy. You can’t change it by making phone calls. I’ve tried that. You can’t do it by attending meetings. I’ve tried that, too. E-mails, faxes, articles — they don’t work.

“The only thing I’ve found that works is you zero in on somebody and you make sure that either you take them out or at least make them know they’ve been shot at.”

Manufacturing employees are the ones getting the sharp end of the stick, he added.

“They are good, smart, ambitious people who are on the lowest end of the economic scale but who do not have an avenue for any chance of success because we’re taking it away from them,” Daugherty said.

Leonard comments

During his remarks, Leonard acknowledged that creating a level playing field isn’t possible in the trade arena because too many countries play by their own rules. But he pledged that the Bush Administration is doing its best to even the score by seeking to enforce the rules, along with other steps.

“I think this administration is trying to make the field more level than in the past,” he said. “It’s trying to be more responsive to the industry and it’s trying to provide an environment where companies who are still standing at the end of the day can continue to stand.”

Leonard also reinforced the message the administration has tried to send to the industry for nearly a year: That it’s working on behalf of the industry and has its best interests at heart during all trade negotiations — unlike previous administrations, he said.

“I worked with many administrations for more than 20 years and they all said exactly the same thing: ‘We’re from the government and we’re here to help,’ ” he said. “But they did their own thing and did not help.

“But things are different with President Bush and particularly with Secretary (of Commerce Donald) Evans. They, in fact, are on your side.”

Leonard mentioned the fact that Evans, Undersecretary of Commerce Grant Aldonas and other department officials have visited textile companies on numerous occasions and have been highly involved in finding solutions to the industry’s woes.

He added that the administration is being proactive in fulfilling the commitments made to textile-state legislators last December during the House TPA vote. He cited the formation of the Textile Working Group, which he said is working to assist the industry by taking up such issues as better market access for U.S. goods and improved Customs enforcement to curb illegal dumping and intellectual property fraud.

The stakes of trade have been raised higher with the recent passage of the Trade Act of 2002, which includes trade promotion authority for the president. Expanding trade isn’t going to stop, he said, adding that the administration is taking a firm position in negotiations so as not to further harm the industry.

“We have strongly resisted an incredible pressure in Geneva in the WTO to accelerate the phase-out of quotas,” he said. “The commitment was made by the U.S. government for a 10-year phase-out of quotas and we are not going to change that.”

Related to NAFTA, Leonard said he believes the agreement was good for the domestic textile industry, given its yarn-forward stipulation.

“The two things that we pushed very strongly for were good rules of origin and good Customs enforcement,” he said. “I think we got a good rule of origin. We got good Customs enforcement language, but that has to be implemented. Customs has to do a better job of implementing the language dealing with fraud.”

Jock talk

Opening his comments with the rallying cry “America must win,” Nash, who mentioned that he is a former boxer, pounded the subject of trade and globalization from several angles — its history, its stakes, its ramifications — sprinkling his remarks with illustrative anecdotes. He broached the subject by mentioning the danger of label-placing.

“I’m here to give you a perspective, or an approach, so that when people talk about trade, they’re not saying, ‘oh, he’s a protectionist, he’s not a free trader. He’s afraid of the future, driving into the future looking into the rearview mirror.’ Or, ‘the free traders are progressive or Renaissance men, — fearing nothing, seeking an opportunity.’

“So I want you to know that the binary way of looking at things is childlike. That’s what children do.”

He then jumped in, calling his boss, Roger Milliken, “almost a prophet” who didn’t build his company into a multi-billion dollar corporation by “being stupid” on trade issues.

Speaking in broad terms, he said the moderating influences of Democratic political institutions on the exploitative nature of capitalism helped make the United States the strongest country in the world.

“Just when the capitalist free-market model has trumped the socialist model, we’re finding that our new areas of capitalism are now starting to leap international boundaries — exploiting labor, the environment, the workers,” he said.

“But they get to get their products back here, the richest market in the world — a market that we built — through 225 years of sacrifice by good men and women of this country who created the strongest market, the richest market in the world.”

The “wheels are coming off globalization,” he added, because many countries making goods around the world can’t afford to buy those goods — and the U.S. is heading in that direction by allowing its middle class to be eroded.

“We had geniuses like Henry Ford, who said, ‘gosh, if I triple the wages of my auto workers, they will be able to buy what they make,’ ” he said. “He did that and they started to buy what they made, creating the first mass market in the modern era, a market that is ours. We built it, fair and square.”

As such, global trade philosophy today is turning lesser-developed countries into mere “export processing zones.” he said. General Motors’ workers in Mexico can’t buy those cars, nor can Nike workers in Indonesia or Malaysia, he cited.

“We’re not talking about raising the tide, where 6 billion people of the world are going to all of a sudden become middle class and start buying our products,” he said. “The Dominican Republic last year lowered its minimum wage from $150 a month to $100 a month. Why? Because they couldn’t remain competitive in apparel manufacturing unless they did so. That would be an example of the so-called race to the bottom.”

With his company being perhaps the biggest NAFTA- basher in the textile industry, Nash called the deal an inadequate model for the U.S. to compete internationally.

“We have a government who always thinks it has a better idea,” he said. “Oh, NAFTA was going to stop drugs. NAFTA was going to stop illegal immigration. NAFTA was going to raise the standards of Mexican people, 100 million strong,” he said. “Failure, failure, failure, failure! None of those came true.”

The recently passed Andean trade preference measure, part of the Trade Act of 2002, was approved with similar ambitions and will face a similar fate, he said.

“(With the Andean bill) they want to stop drugs. We’re going to sit people down in front of sewing machines instead of growing coca,” he said. “I can assure you, ladies and gentlemen, that if giving away our apparel jobs got people out of drugs, there’s no better place in the world than that would occur than in Mexico. Since NAFTA, no other country in the world has enjoyed more foreign-direct investment from America. Nobody. Nobody has created more apparel jobs at different times this year and last year. They were the No. 1 supplier to the U.S. market.

“They’re also the largest drug supplier to this country — and growing. So don’t tell me, administration, that this is all about drug eradication. No, no. This is a massive force of the mass retailers and the importing community and the deafening silence of the textile industry, who seems willing to die quietly. What a shame. What a darn shame.”

If the NAFTA model works, he added, then why has U.S. textile production dropped 23 percent since 1995 — especially during a booming economy?

Saying he could speak for 20 minutes or he could “go on forever,” Nash continued to take hook shots at U.S. government trade policy.

“I’m so convinced that most people think that globalization happens,” he said, adding mockingly, “ ‘Wake up and smell the coffee. The world is changing, Jock and Roger. Get with the program.’

“But globalization only happens when Congress and the executive branch say it can happen. Other countries of the world control globalization to the extent that they can to their benefit. My philosophy is every nation should trade to the extent that it benefits them. To the extent that it doesn’t, they ought not trade.”

Nash also picked apart trade promotion authority, saying it violates the Constitutional prerogative to regulate international commerce, which rests with that branch of government closest to the people, Congress, he said.

“What does TPA do?” he asked. “It gives the power back to the king, which our Founding Fathers specifically got away from. TPA is an important issue. These guys come back with these negotiated agreements and they can sell you and others right down the river and your elected representatives can’t do anything about it. Zilch. Nada. Nothing!”

After taking a glancing blow at the WTO, Nash touched on manufacturing job losses during the last 12 months, coming up with 844,000 combined in several sectors.

Finally, at the end of the Q&A session, he pulled off his gloves.

“I give a lot of credit to Jim Leonard,” Nash said. “I know where he’s coming from. We couldn’t have a better guy there. And he is going to take the message from here to people like Grant Aldonas, Secretary Evans and people right up the food chain. He’s the only one in many years who had the courage to do what he did today and God bless him for it.”

IFAI Expo 2002

Week of October 21, 2002

Schedule at-a-glance

Tuesday, October 22
• Registration — 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Wednesday, October 23
• Registration — 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Textile Technology Forum:
• Welcome and General Session — 8:15 a.m.-9 a.m.
• Technical Programs — 9 a.m.-5:15 p.m.
• New Products Forum and Luncheon — 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
• Closing Session and Technical Fabrics Excellence Award
Presentation — 5:15 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
• Reception & Technical Products Displays — 5:30 p.m.-7 p.m.
Safety & Protective Fabrics Conference:
• Welcome and General Session — 8:15 a.m.-9 a.m.
• Technical Programs and Market Introduction Session —
9 a.m.-5 p.m.
• New Products Forum and Luncheon — 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
• Reception and Technical Product Displays — 5:30 p.m.-7 p.m.

Thursday, October 24
• Registration — 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Exhibits — 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Educational tracks:
• Signs & Graphics — 9:45 a.m.-12 p.m.
• Filtration Textiles — 9:45 a.m.-12 p.m.
• Architectural Structures — 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
• Equipment & Technologies Forum — 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
• Safety & Protective Track — 2 p.m.-5 p.m.

Friday, October 25
• Registration — 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Exhibits — 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Keynote Address: Tom Morris — 8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m.
Educational tracks:
• Awning — 9:45 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Sports & Recreation Products — 9:45-12 p.m.
• Transportation Textiles — 9:45 a.m.-12 p.m.
• Medical Textiles — 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
• Construction — 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

Saturday, October 26
• Registration — 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
• Exhibits — 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
• Keynote Address: Gary Heil — 8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m.
Educational tracks:
• Marine Fabrication — 9:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
• Business Development — 9:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m.


Week of October 21, 2002

Tri-County Tech presents awards, scholarships

Mark Kent, president of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance and president and CEO of The Kent Manufacturing Company, talks with attendees after his address. (L-R) Dr. Don C. Garrison, president of Tri-County Technical College; Kent; Steve Darby, a College Foundation Board member; Jim Wilson, head of the Textile Management Technology department; and Tommy Ariail, retired textile executive and current adjunct instructor for the department.

PENDLETON, SC — Ricky Dean Hayes received the Textile Management Technology department’s highest award at Tri-County Technical College’s annual textile scholarship awards banquet this month.

Hayes, of Easley, SC, received the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance (SCMA) Textile Council Outstanding Graduate Award. This award is given to the student with the highest GPA who will be graduating this year. Hayes, who has more than 25 years of weaving experience, received a plaque and a $200 award.

Meanwhile, Michael D. Thacker was named the SCMA Textile Council Student of the Year for the department.

Thacker, of Anderson, SC, also received a plaque and a $200 award. He spent 10 years of active duty in the Air Force prior to entering Tri-County.

These two awards recognize students who excel academically, demonstrate good citizenship and is committed to keeping textiles the No. 1 industry in South Carolina.

Twenty-eight students received scholarships at the college’s 30th annual banquet. These scholarships are sponsored by the J. E. Sirrine Textile Foundation, as well as many local textile firms in Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties of South Carolina.

These textile firms include Alice Manufacturing Company, Avondale Mills, Blair Mills, Glen Raven, Hexcel Schwebel, JPS Glass, Kent Manufacturing, LaFrance Industries, Orian Rugs and Safety Components Fabric Technologies.

Currently, these companies are sponsoring a total of 62 students in the program.

For the first time, the Textile Council of the SCMA sponsored two scholarships, plus cash awards for the department’s Outstanding Graduate and Student of the Year.

Keynote remarks

Keynoter Mark Kent, president of SCMA, quoted Dickens’s “best-of-times, worst-of-times” book-opener, in relating the erosion of the domestic textile industry and its causes.

“It is easy to see what the worst of times are,” said Kent, president and CEO of The Kent Manufacturing Co., Pickens, SC. “Heck, I can even see some of it in your eyes. Yes, there is fear, there is uncertainty and there is doubt. But let me tell you something: There always has been and there always will be uncertainty and doubt.”

Kent mentioned “flaws” in trade agreements and the strong U.S. dollar as being critical drivers in manufacturing in general and textiles in particular. He then challenged students to contact their elected representatives to “hold their feet over the fire” on various policies that affect the industry.

“Let’s turn some of our ‘worst of times’ into some of our ‘best of times,’ ” he said.

Kent also contended that enrollment in textile management programs and textile schools in the U.S. are at an all-time high; freshman textile majors rank near or at the top of all students in SAT scores in 2001 and 2002; and that graduates of textile programs had one of the highest placement percentage of all graduates this year.

“We are always talking about the amount of money we invest in new equipment and all the other capital expenditures that make the headlines,” he said. “Yes, they are important to manufacturers; however, to a man, each manufacturer will tell you that the most valuable asset within their perspective organization is their people.”

Kent also reaffirmed SCMA’s commitment to education, specifically the state’s technical college system. He noted that, already this year, the organization has approved, established and distributed textile scholarships to Tri-County Tech and members have helped fund a program that allows the school to broadcast textile classes to other technical schools throughout the state.

He also said that SCMA has formed an Education Task Force to work on the advancement of education within South Carolina, with specific focus on the technical education within the areas of higher education and the state technical college system.

“This is not only action, it is a commitment — a commitment to you and the future of our industry,” Kent said. “The manufactures of the United States of America need you. Whether we make yarn, fabric, sheets, towels, polymers or chemicals, springs, gears or brakes, seats or automobiles, we need you.

“Yes, textiles and manufacturing have changed a great deal over the last several years,” he added. “And we will continue to change. Some names will disappear from the traditional marques. Some will become smaller and more niche driven. Some will grow and become more powerful and influential then ever before. Many will become and already are global and international in flavor. Many will not.”

Knowledge is not only power, it is powerful, he concluded. “Do not let the media sway you into believing this is only the ‘worst of times,’ ” he said.

Two-year scholarship recipients

ANDERSON COUNTY: Samuel Mark Coe, Mary Whitt Davis, Ross William Evans, Ramey E. Jenkins, Russell Brandon Merck, Jerry Dale Norris, Girish Patel and Michele A. Wiles, all of Anderson; Sandra Lynn Cobb of Starr; and Angela M. McCaslan of Calhoun Falls.

PICKENS COUNTY: Bobby Lee Byers and James Ricky Stancil, both of Liberty; Dedi J. Adams, Bradley Eric Adcox, Sherry Ann Jaynes, Ann Marie Pitman, Donna K. Osborne and Eddie Dean Rice, all of Pickens; Waymond L. Jackson, of Easley; and Radge Eliot Harrison and Brian Edward Swafford, both of Central.

OCONEE COUNTY: Maria A. Estrada and H.R. Calvin Moore, both of Walhalla; and Bradley Sean Cook, of Seneca.

GREENVILLE COUNTY: Kathy E. Cater, of Marietta, and Scott Rene Wilson, of Travelers Rest.

GEORGIA: Kevin D. Blackmon, of Bowman, and Eric Stephen Spears, of Lavonia.

IFAI Expo Roundup

Week of Oct. 21, 2002

R&D crucial to Gehring/Militex

Editor’s note: In advance of the IFAI 2002 Expo, several exhibitors provided information about their products and services. These write-ups are featured on this page.

NEW YORK CITY — IFAI Expo 2002 exhibitor Gehring Textiles, Inc. and its Militex Inc. Division, based here, said they pride themselves on their development work in technical textiles.

In the last few years alone, George G. “Skip” Gehring, Jr., president, reported the company has been granted five U.S. patents in this area.

R&D, Gehring said, is the key to the future. That means not only working with customers, but also doing its own development work. The company, he reported, develops about 70 fabrics a year, about a third of which come to market.

Among Gehring’s latest products is its D3 Stretch Spacers, which are Raschel knit spacer fabrics designed especially for use in orthopedic devices such as braces and artificial limb components, as well as other medical devices where neoprene is used.

Gehring is a medium-sized, family owned and operated warp knit producer that turns out industrial and technical fabrics, as well as fabrics for athletic wear.

It operates a knitting plant, Helmont Mills, in St. Johnsville, NY, and a dyehouse in Dolgeville, NY. It can turn out up to 80,000 pounds a week, depending on construction and yarn, which range in size from 15-2000 denier.

In addition to the D3 Stretch Spacer knit fabrics, Gehring/Militex also produces such technical fabrics as ballistic cloth, high-strength loop products with a life of more than 100,000 cycles, fire fighting material, geotextiles, composites for fabric reinforcement, slash resistant fabrics, bed pads and material for soft-sided luggage and backpacks.

For apparel, it produces meshes and nets for athletic wear.

In contrast to the generally poor financial picture for U.S. knitters, Gehring Textiles/Militex over the last several years has reported double-digit profits largely as a result of its sales of technical textiles. In the last few years alone, Gehring/Militex has completed a multi-million dollar expansion program that has included the purchase of 16 new knitting machines, as well as new dyeing and finishing equipment and the addition of 60,000 square feet in production space.

Phifer Wire to show variety of meshes

TUSCALOOSA, AL — Phifer Wire Products, Inc., exhibiting in booth #2317, manufactures and supplies aluminum and PVC-coated fiberglass for use in filters.

Phifer, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has been a part of the filter industry for most of those years.

Phifer’s variety of meshes gives customers a wide range of choices for adding strength and support to virtually any type of media — cellulose, glass, synthetic and others.

Phifer produces woven aluminum, vinyl-coated fiberglass, vinyl-coated polyester and vinyl-coated nylon meshes for applications such as filtration, shading, netting, reinforcement substrates and a variety of other uses.

Phifer’s Designed Fabrics are made of 100 percent vinyl-coated polyester and each year an array of intricate woven designs in dobbies, wicker weaves, stripes and jacquards are designed to reflect the latest home fashion trends.

Phifer also manufactures SheerWeave®, interior sun control fabrics that offer an exciting new alternative to ordinary window coverings.

Industrial uses for Phifer’s performance fabrics include; truck tarps, filters, ventilation, wind screens, auto bug screens, pool skimmers and covers, construction netting, reinforcing construction materials and agricultural netting.

Various coatings are available in the woven aluminum meshes to meet numerous custom specifications in virtually any application. Industrial uses for Phifer’s performance metals include; filtration, ventilation, EMI/RFI shielding, insect screening, reinforcement, satellite antennas, truck grill screens and animal transport containers.

Phifer Wire Products has been registered by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. to the International Organization for Standardization ISO 9002 Series Standards for quality.

Mammut to exhibit

SEON, SWITZERLAND — Mammut Tec AG, a specialized company for narrow fabric technology, announced new products it plans to show at IFAI Expo 2002.

Among them will be its latest fall protection system. The new development of a lanyard with an integrated shock absorber gives the company a more economical fall protection system with extremely improved wearing comfort, Mammut Tec said.

Up to now it was necessary to have a lanyard connected to a larger sized, packaged shock absorber, which was then connected to the harness. Designed for users such as roofers, power line service technicians and window cleaners, the patented shock absorber lanyard is a one-piece rope that is much lighter and comfortable than traditional fall protection systems, the manufacturer said.

Mammut Tec also will show its patent-pending lifting belt sling, which features abrasion and cut-resistant cover tube. As such, service life is extended, even when handling sharp-edged material such as steel and aluminum coils, slabs, rods and pipes.

In addition, the company will exhibit its newest restraining and collision absorption system.

Based on comprehensive and lightweight fabric construction, the safety belt and automatic winding system gently absorbs forces during a collision, according to the company.

Glen Raven to present SGS

GLEN RAVEN, NC — Glen Raven Custom Fabrics LLC will feature the new Sunbrella® Graphics System (SGS) in booth #2355.

SGS was introduced to the awning industry earlier this year.

The SGS 100 graphics machine is a compact unit that employs heat lamps and vacuum pumps to create a secure bond between 3M™ Scotchal™ ElectroCut™ Graphic films and Sunbrella or Dickson® fabrics. It supports multi-colored artwork and fine details of intricate logos.

SGS allows awning shops to create digital versions of logos and lettering, which are then cut from 3M film using a plotter. The film is position on the fabric and placed in the SGS 100 graphics machine, which is programmed to provide the exact amount of heat and vacuum pressure to create a secure bond of the film to the fabric.

MarChem to feature line of coated fabrics

NEW HAVEN, MO — MarChem Coated Fabrics, Inc. will exhibit its full line of products at the show.

In booth #3133, the company will display its Top Gun, Odyssey III and Top Notch marine fabrics; Amerglo reflective safety fabrics; Softouch By Odyssey non-abrasive cover fabric; Aqua-Tite liquid water repellent; and custom coating, finishing and laminating services.

MarChem’s products serve a wide variety of industries, not limited to, but including the following: marine, awning, camping, tent, bag, safety, industrial work gloves, hospitality and health care.

Wil Heiliger, vice president and general manager of the New Haven plant, noted that MarChem has expanded its spectrum of customer services — particularly in the field of laminating — through the recent merger and subsequent equipment integration of its St. Louis Coated Fabrics Division.

“The merger means that we can now offer our customers an extremely dependable single-source supplier relationship which we believe is the finest in the industry,” he said.

Bally Ribbon Mills to show off fabrics

BALLY, PA — Bally Ribbon Mills (BRM) will exhibit its extensive line of engineered, woven, narrow fabrics, specialty broadcloth and woven structures for medical, industrial, aerospace and commercial applications.

BRM, which will be located in booth #550, will also take part in several educational presentations.

On hand will be Ted Fetterman, marketing manager; Louis C. Franconi, new business development; and Bill Hornig, sales manager.

Bally Ribbon Mills will display samples of woven tubular vascular stents, bifurcates, tapered weaves and arteries that are used to replace damaged blood vessels. Bally will also exhibit blood filtration membrane and carbon fiber structures for orthopedic and prosthetic applications.

In addition, Bally will display samples of circular (polar) weaves, woven 2-D and 3-D shapes, fabrics used for parachutes and for air frame components. The air frame components are made from lightweight carbon fibers, which are 10 times stronger and lighter than the metals used in traditional airframe construction, the company said.

Bally also will display industrial products that include non-compacting bridge bearing support fabric, conductive and anti-static fabrics, fabrics used to construct greaseless (self-lubricating) bearings, brake belting, safety lanyards and controlled porosity fabrics used in bag, air and liquid filtration applications.

Bally Ribbon Mill’s extensive line of Mil-Spec Webbing will also be on exhibition.

The privately held, family-owned business has been manufacturing woven materials at its facility here since 1923. Its services include product design and development, weaving, braiding, dyeing, finishing, strap cuffing, specialty sewing and parts fabrication.


Week of Oct. 21, 2002

Efforts miss mark, U.S. rep says

WASHINGTON — The Bush Administration’s efforts to assist the ailing U.S. textile industry do not go far enough to address its problems, according to U.S. House Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).

Frank, a member of he Congressional Textile Caucus, responded to a report to Congress by Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans that outlines measures the administration is taking to improve the condition of the industry.

Frank said he is glad the White House is seeking remedies to the industry’s woes, but that they fall short in measurably helping the manufacturing sector.

“The administration continues to resist what I and many others believe is one of the most important things we can do — adopt a policy that says that people wishing to export goods to the U.S. should follow appropriate labor and environmental standards,” Frank wrote in an e-mail statement, as quoted by The Standard-Times of New Bedford, MA.

Frank represents the 4th District of Massachusetts, which includes historical textile hotbeds Fall River and New Bedford.

The state employs more than 23,000 people in the textiles and apparel industries.


Week of Oct. 21, 2002

Inroads being made in Caribbean

GREENSBORO, NC — Unifi Inc., one of the world’s largest producers and processors of textured yarns, said last week that it is realizing tremendous gains after it started to explore options in the Caribbean Basin two years ago.

Trying to take advantage of legislation aimed at boosting opportunities for U.S. companies in the region (commonly referred to as “CBI”), the company said its commitment to product innovation, alliance building and improved transportation logistics has effectively raised the level of opportunity for all players in the supply chain, and Unifi said it plans to expand its commitment to the region.

“Unifi knows what our customers need and we are committed to identifying new ways to meet and exceed their expectations,” said Mike Delaney, senior vice president of Unifi. “As a result, Unifi focused its attention on the potential of CBI and emerged as the catalyst for creating interest and expanded business in the region.

“Our goal to generate awareness of the benefits of CBI across the supply chain led to a successful business strategy that effectively links the efforts of U.S. fabric manufacturers, U.S. fiber manufacturers and regional garment manufacturers with the needs of retailers and apparel companies,” Delaney added. “The benefits of this collaborative manufacturing base include close proximity to the United States, quick product turnaround time, manufacturing flexibility and expedited process implementation.”

The company recently initiated efforts to reduce transit times and increase the number of countries and ports of destination serviced without increasing freight rates. As a result, transit times have been cut by more than half, reducing time materials spend in transit from 18 days to seven days, Unifi said.

Destinations now include every major port in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Shipments arrive twice per week in large markets and once per week in smaller markets throughout the region.

During the last two years, Unifi has seen its CBI customer base increase from two regular customers to an estimated 25 by year end. In addition, fiscal 2002 shipments into the region increased 82 percent versus prior year, and Unifi said it expects shipments in fiscal 2003 to increase as much as 70 percent over fiscal 2002.

Technology driver

Helping the effort, Unifi said, is its recognition as a trendsetter in fiber technology. The company’s heightened visibility and commitment to product innovation is helping the industry realize that garment differentiation can be driven by fiber, it added.

Unifi’s success at worldwide fabric and fiber expositions has led to fashion-forward adoptions by specialty brands and private label customers that are increasingly interested in the new sourcing options available through CBI, according to the company

“Our efforts to create a ‘virtual vertical’ supply network have shortened lead time throughout the supply chain and reduced inventory risk for retailers,” said Stewart Little, senior vice president, customer development. “The retailer or apparel company can reduce lead times for orders by four to six weeks, order less at the beginning of the season and have the opportunity to replenish during the selling season, thus reducing markdowns at the end of the cycle. It’s all about improving sell through and gross margin, or their return on inventory investment.”

The advantages created by sourcing in the region have opened the door for domestic yarn and fabric manufacturers to compete against Asian imports, where materials and labor require long lead times and are more susceptible to transportation delays, Delaney added.

“The dock strike in California is a great example of how risky it is for retailers and apparel manufacturers to source exclusively from one region,” said Delaney. “Today, more and more of our customers are adopting a blended sourcing strategy that includes Asia, as well as production from CBI regional sources.”

Delaney pointed to a recent example to illustrate how the strategy is working. After identifying an American fabric manufacturer and a garment manufacturer from Guatemala, Unifi won a mass retail program that had previously been sourced out of Taiwan.


Week of Oct. 21, 2002

North Carolina manufacturers given pep talk

By Devin Steele

SOUTHERN PINES, NC — If members of the North Carolina Manufacturers Association (NCMA) were looking for a pep talk, they may have come to the right place.

Thomas G. Murphy, executive vice president of manufacturing and wholesale distribution for RSM McGladrey, Inc., Bloomington, MN, brought encouraging news about the prospects of manufacturing during the group’s 94th annual meeting here last month.

Armed with numbers showing a reduction in business inventories, a rise in production and an increase in new factory orders in the last few months, Murphy contended that positive activity means a pulse has been found in American manufacturing. The slide of the U.S. dollar has also helped producers, he added.

Also in the good news department, Murphy noted that manufacturing grew by 47 percent, durable goods rose by 73 percent and productivity output per hour increased 32 percent from 1992 to 2000. In addition, 17 million manufacturing employees currently represent 23 percent of U.S. payroll, two-thirds of private investment in research is made by U.S. manufacturers and American manufacturers invest seven times as much at home as abroad, he said.

“So we can’t be too hard on ourselves,” said Murphy, whose firm specializes in consulting, accounting and taxes.

Murphy’s assessment was welcomed by manufacturers based in a state hit harder economically than many others in recent months. Due to North Carolina’s heavy reliance on manufacturing and the heavy influx of imports into the U.S. market, plant shutdowns have been widespread. Its unemployment rate, at 6.3 percent, is now among the highest in the country.

While manufacturing hopes improved, consumer sentiment, however, has been on a downward trend since late 1999, Murphy said, citing University of Michigan figures.

“Consumer spending has been what’s been driving this economy for several years,” he said. “When I think consumer sentiment, I stop and ask myself: Do I feel a little uncertain? I do. And I think most of us do. But I do think, though, that we’ll see an improvement in this in the fourth quarter. I do believe a lot of indicators are showing that things will start improve.”

Related to economic growth, Murphy said to expect a more stable growth rate in the 3 percent to 3.5 percent range over the next year, not the 6 percent to 7 percent rate experienced at times in the 1990s.

Murphy later listed a plethora of “industry relocation repelling forces,” such as a shortage and high cost of land, the objection of residents, an inadequate infrastructure, high labor calls and cumbersome regulations. He then provided a number of forces that attract industry, such as shifting locations of major customers or suppliers, quality, economic incentives and weather.

“But attracting forces often don’t unfold until repelling forces take root,” he said.

Murphy added that foreign direct investment in U.S. manufacturing in 2000 was $145 million.

In the realm of globalization, the biggest threat is the transfer of knowledge and expertise, he said. Important metallurgical, manufacturing and engineering principles are taught around the world, he reported.

Interestingly, he noted that only 5.3 percent of college degrees in the U.S. are earned in the field of engineering, compared to 19.4 percent in Japan. Also, 60 percent of students in Russia and Brazil earn first university degrees in engineering and science. In China, it’s a whopping 72 percent, he added.

“Innovation is essential to our success,” Murphy concluded. “We have to continue to develop new products, new ways to produce the products we’re currently making. And, most importantly, since partnerships between business, labor and government work we need to develop those partnerships.”


Week of October 21, 2002

It was a good, clean fight …

CALL IT the Showdown in Charlotte.

Or at least the Queen City Quarrel.

The American Association of Textile Chemists & Colorists (AATCC) pulled off a coup by bringing together two sides of the long-brewing, often-bitter free trade/protectionist argument. During its annual International Conference & Exhibition at the Charlotte Convention Center earlier this month, the association welcomed a packed house to its business and marketing conference session. The drawing card: Two of the industry’s loudest critics of government trade policies and a government official who is responsible specifically for textile and apparel matters. In one corner were Jock Nash, Washington counsel for Milliken & Co., and Ron Daugherty, owner of Drexel, NC-based Miami Thread and a Democratic U.S. Congressional candidate. In the other was Jim Leonard III, the former longtime Burlington Industries who now serves as executive deputy assistant secretary of commerce for textiles, apparel and consumer goods. Unfortunately for Leonard, he had no one with whom to tag-team.

If the bout seemed unfair, giving its two-on-one setup, it was. But Leonard knew that coming in — and chose to participate anyway. He also knew that, as a U.S. government representative, his rules of engagement differed from those of his fellow speakers, who enjoyed more latitude to move into attack mode. Leonard, on the other hand, understood that his strategy needed to be more defensive in nature. After all, his job is to explain the actions of a government that, at least in administrations past, has not been so kind to the U.S. textile industry.

BUT THIS wasn’t so much a debate in the traditional sense, where back-and-forth exchange occurs, as it was a lively discussion of the issues. A question-and-answer session followed, which allowed for some repartee, and a couple of “loaded questions” (Leonard’s term) did come his way. Personal attacks were excluded from the mix, although Daugherty and Nash both took a couple of minor but direct shots at Leonard’s opinions.

All told, the fireworks many may have expected never really got off the ground, thanks to professional restraint shown by each party and the fact that Nash defused some of the hype by informing the audience that he and Leonard are friends who go way back, but are employed by different people.

That doesn’t mean, however, that all emotion was left at home. Daugherty, an industry veteran who entered the Congressional race because he was “fed up” with government, brought that mad-as-hell-and-I’m-not-going-to-take-it-anymore attitude to the podium. You could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice, and he confirmed that notion early. Leonard didn’t bring passion so much as he did conviction. You could tell he firmly believes the Bush Administration really is trying to help this downtrodden industry, and it’s his job to make that case to skeptics. And Nash? Well, if you know this cowboy boots-wearing ex-Marine, you know he’s always up for a good fight — particularly over such issues as trade, government policy and globalization. He knows these issues like the back of his hand and can spout numbers, relate real-world stories and quote everyone from Adam Smith to Sir James Goldsmith — all in the same breath. He’s made a lot of enemies along the way with his brash style, but his zeal and spirit make him a compelling and persuasive speaker — agree with him or not.

The format also allowed audience members to participate during the panel portion, and inquirers didn’t lack in the emotion department, either.

WHILE THIS forum did show how wide the divide is between some in this industry and the government on trade philosophy, it also proved that airing this issues face to face, man to man — publicly or privately — is a good way to go about finding solutions. The goal is the same — to quell further job and profit erosion in this industry — although a difference of opinion on which road to take to get there exists. We commend AATCC for organizing this heavyweight match.

Rather than more preaching-to-the-choir gatherings, this industry needs more civil, positive confabs of this nature, with folks from opposing sides of the aisle headlining. Perhaps common ground — and that seemingly utopian goal of unity — can be found, if given a chance.

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