By Devin Steele
CHARLOTTE, NC The textile industry has passed through a strategic inflection point in recent years and, now, survivors will be the ones who satisfy the markets perception of value and do so faster than anyone else.
John A. Boland III, GTMA executive in residence within the School of Textile and Fiber Engineering at Georgia Tech, made that assertion in his keynote address to kick off the American Association of Textile Chemists & Colorists (AATCC) International Conference & Exhibition this month.
We must face the reality that we are in a mature industry and that the relative influences of supply and demand have become more balanced, Boland said in his erudite and tantalizingly titled presentation, Politics, Viagra and Other Popular Remedies: Catch 22 and The Textile Industrys Search for Relevance.
Subsequently, the issues that separate the winners from the losers revolve around the clash between a companys perception of value for the product it offers and the markets perception of value for the same product. Too often, those perceptions have absolutely nothing in common.
The perception of the company supplying the product is too often based on the effort that went into the product, while the perception of value of the market is based on the benefits gained from using the product, he added.
Prices and quantities sold are determined more and more by the markets perception of value and less and less by the suppliers perception, said Boland, former president and CEO of Dominion Textile, Inc. whose current post is being funded by The Textile Education Foundation (TEF), an affiliate of GTMA: The Association of Georgias Textile, Carpet and Consumer Products Manufacturers.
Boland opened his thought-provoking presentation by connecting his address and its title to the conferences theme: Concept to Consumer, which reflects a newly established initiative of AATCC to provide a forum to discuss issues surrounding the creation of product, from initial concept to final consumer.
I hope (the title) stimulated your curiosity and motivated you to show up this morning eager to glimpse an 80,000-foot view of what it requires, at least from my perspective, to move from concept to customer, and perhaps even more importantly, to earn the right to do it over and over again, he said.
For almost 30 years, he has engaged in a love affair with the textile industry, he continued in his introductory comments.
I have experienced the pain of its arrogance, the humility of its ignorance, the joy of its discovery and the excitement of its revival, he said. I respect its proud legacy and I rejoice in its renaissance. I have a working knowledge of its fundamental issues, and I am sufficiently suspicious of its preoccupation with elegant solutions.
I am concerned that our industry has the fatal tendency to equate superficial change with fundamental revision, to confuse incidents for trends, activity for movement, and to see connections everywhere while making distinctions nowhere.
Today, managers in too many textile companies are working hard to match the competitive advantages of their new global rivals. They are moving manufacturing offshore in search of lower labor costs, rationalizing product lines to capture global economies of scale, instituting quality certification programs and just-in-time production strategies and adopting enlightened human resource practices.
And when competitiveness seems out of reach, they form strategic alliances often with the same companies that upset the competitive balance in the first place, he said. Important as these initiatives are, few of them go beyond mere imitation. Too many companies are expending enormous energy simply to reproduce the cost and quality advantages their global counterparts already enjoy.
Companies that have risen to global leadership over the past 20 years invariably began with ambitions that were all out of proportion with their resources or their capabilities, Boland added.
But they created an obsession with winning at all levels of the organization and they sustained that obsession over a 10 to 20 year quest for global leadership, he said. They speak of strategic intent rather than core competencies and competitive advantage.
The industry has moved into an era in which its leaders know what is required of them and have the courage of their convictions and the vision to stimulate a collective and focused response, Boland said. As such, these leaders have the knowledge and skills to fashion its destiny, he added.
We should be the architects of the new wave of change, rather than the victims of it, he said.
He went on to say: The challenge of leadership in preparing the textile industry for the 21st century is not so much to manage this industry but rather to transform it. Time is not on our side! Change is overwhelming the evolutionary forces in this industry and the customers we serve. However, I predict a bright future for change and for complexity.
Boland opined that textile manufacturers must function in an environment in which advantages are rapidly created, and just as rapidly destroyed, sometimes even in a cannibalistic-like ritual that some have characterized as creative destruction.
Leaders must prepare their organizations for an environment in which both the markets they serve and the technologies they utilize are concurrently and increasingly becoming more complex and yet more integrated, he said.
Embracing change has almost become a cliché of management, he added, noting that leaders who really stand for something tend to be paranoid. Referencing the book Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove, chairman and CEO of Intel Corp., Boland said that Grove defines a strategic inflection point as that time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. At a strategic inflection point, the curve stops curving one way and starts curving another way, he said.
The old strategic picture dissolves and gives way to the new, allowing the business to ascend to new heights, or to crash to new lows, he said.
Groves book, he declared, should have been written almost two decades ago by someone in the textile industry, which itself has passed that strategic inflection point. Some in the industry, however, didnt recognize that, he suggested.
The textile industry cannot merely repackage raw materials and generate the returns necessary to earn its cost of capital, he said. We must discover new ways of creating greater value for our stakeholders by applying intellectual capital to new and innovative products and services for our customers wherever they may be located.
The new dimensions of demand are speed, flexibility, innovation, new products and variety, delivered to the right customer, at the right price, the right quality, the right time and through the right channel of distribution and to do so profitably.
Boland also suggested that textile manufacturing has been an either/or industry, meaning that its companies have told customers they can either have high-quality, innovative products delivered just in time from the U.S. or lower-cost goods delivered from the Far East. But customers have demanded both, he said.
The problem is not with foreign competition, he continued, but with unconventional competition some of which happens to be foreign. The playing field will never be level, he added.
In fact, in a global information age, power on the playing field is distributed among nations in a pattern that resembles a three-dimensional chess board: economic power constitutes only one dimension; military power and transnational relationships define the other two, he said. However, political will and market dominance are subject to the dynamics of all three. Today, the U.S. can exercise almost exclusive will only in the military dimension; we must share the playing field with Europe and Japan in the economic dimension; and the third chessboard is cluttered with actors as diverse as bankers electronically transferring sums larger than most national budgets at one extreme, and terrorists transferring weapons or hackers disrupting Internet operations at the other.
Competitive advantage is an all-too-temporary narcotic that sometimes dulls our intellectual resources to create new advantages, Boland said.
Re-engineering and restructuring have made the industry smaller, he pointed out, but the quest for continuous improvement has, in some cases, made it better. Today, he said, the industry is still replete with business that has been getting smaller faster than they have been getting better, and others that have been getting better faster than they are becoming different.
We will not be successful because we manufacture; we will manufacture because we are successful, Boland said. Our ability to learn, to switch directions quickly, to pursue new options when they arise and to discover new linkages between problems and solutions, wherever they arise, will distinguish us. The speed, agility and the integrity with which we apply these dynamic skill sets to upstream activities in the value chain will determine our success.
He then expressed a sobering notion: It will be sad if we miss our future because of our past.
Boland closed by paraphrasing the words of Abraham Lincoln, delivered at a correspondingly difficult time in U.S. history: The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present, he quoted.
The occasion before this great industry is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion, he said. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our industry. Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot escape history. We of this great industry and of this challenging time will be remembered in spite of ourselves.
I appeal to each of you: Go! Make a difference!
CHARLOTTE, NC KoSa announced a major investment to upgrade its Shelby, NC, polyester-manufacturing facility.
The project will significantly modernize the plants manufacturing technology for low denier polyester technical filament; will increase low-denier polyester technical filament capacity; and will involve substantial upgrades to the spinning process, as well as add new, state-of-the-art draw-twist equipment, the company said.
The sites low-denier polyester technical filament is primarily used for sewing thread end-uses.
The company did not disclose the dollar amount of the investment.
In the first phase of the renewal, expected to be completed during the fourth quarter, KoSa will add 8 million pounds of new capacity to the site, a 10 percent increase. A second phase is expected to follow at a later date, KoSa added.
This investment will strengthen KoSas position as a leading global supplier of low-denier polyester filament for sewing thread applications by enabling substantial improvements in product quality and productivity, said Thomas Kehl, vice president and general manager, Technical Fibers, KoSa. This project firmly demonstrates KoSas continuing commitment to NAFTA and the global marketplace for polyester sewing thread filament products and services.
The site will also continue production of polyester textile filament.
We are pleased to see a strong company commitment to this site, said Marc Simpson, KoSa Shelby site production manager. The renewal project is a great example of how we blend our knowledge to expand the leading technology position for our global sewing thread business.
The plant employs 380 workers, a little less than half of its work force number a year ago. No new jobs are expected to be created with the project, according to reports.
The news was welcomed in Cleveland County, which has endured a number of textile-related plant closings in recent years.
This asset renewal is patterned after a similar manufacturing upgrade recently completed at KoSas Bad Hersfeld, Germany site.
Sally Kay (L), president of The Hosiery Association, is joined by Carolinas Textile Club President Clyde Parker of Star Leadership Development and Vice President Gwen Perkins of the NC Center for Applied Textile Technology.
By Devin Steele
CHARLOTTE, NC U.S. trade policy has had a major impact on the domestic hosiery industry, as it has the entire textile and apparel sector, but winners will emerge after the shakeout, according to Sally Kay, president of The Hosiery Association (THA), based here.
Addressing the Carolinas Textile Club during its monthly meeting here on Oct. 14, she said that the trend towards free trade and globalization is irreversible. As such, U.S. companies must learn to compete in that environment without the luxury of safeguards.
Tenacity and the ability for companies to effectively implement long-term strategic plans will be a tell-tale sign in determining their destinies, Kay said. Ultimately, it is up to us to help ourselves.
How so? By considering a few initiatives, she said, including striving to create new and innovative products; differentiating by brand as well as product segmentation; enhancing quick manufacturing cycle times and procedures; excelling in quality and service; and developing non-traditional alliances and new business models.
Kay noted that trade policy has accelerated the exodus of apparel manufacturing out of the U.S. Citing figures from Mary Vane, an international trade specialist for DuPont, she reported that, 10 years ago, 50 percent of apparel consumed by Americans was made in the U.S. and, now, less than 10 percent is made here.
Most of that consists of sheer hosiery and socks; apparel for the military, which is mandated by law to be manufactured in this country; and high-fashion items, Kay said.
In her industry, she reported that, during the past decade, sheer hosiery manufacturers dwindled from 72 to 17, while sock makers dipped from 347 to 270.
The sheer industrys rate of decline seems to be plateauing somewhat, however, she said. We are pleased with the fact that many of the larger companies are returning to a more businesslike-type dress, she said. There are also new and innovative products, such as footless and toeless (hosiery), body shapers, etc. that are addressing what todays consumer wants.
The sock industry is now experiencing the consolidation that the sheer industry endured around 20 years ago, Kay added. Worldwide excess capacity exists, and the consumer has shifted gears from acquisition to replenishment mode, she said.
Therefore, the train wreck effect is transpiring, she said. The good news is that sock manufacturers are investing in the latest manufacturing equipment to be globally competitive from a labor standpoint and focusing on niche markets and becoming more technologically advanced via yarns, fibers, prototypes, etc.
Besides trade policy, the shifting retail environment also has had a deep effect on the industry, she said, with consolidation and the changing channels of distribution (Wal-Martization, she termed it) being major factors.
Many hosiery products have been commoditized and there is the ongoing debate as to whether or not hosiery is fashion or commodity, she said.
THA, with about 350 member companies, is playing a part in helping companies understand the new business environment and remain competitive, she said. Undoubtedly, our industry is constantly changing, she said. However, I am confident that our association is changing with it.
She then added: There are over 6 billion pairs of legs walking the earth, she said. How many of them are going to wear our products? I believe its up to us to answer that.
By Odyll Santos
The U.S. cotton crop is getting a bit smaller, though the governments October numbers dont reflect that.
USDAs most recent supply/demand report, released Oct. 11, pegged 2002-03 production at 18.07 million 480-pound bales as of Oct. 1, down about 60,000 bales from September. However, the report didnt factor in losses from two storms, Lili and Isidore, which brought strong winds and rains to key growing areas in the U.S. Delta and parts of the Southeast. USDA also projected mill consumption at 7.9 million bales and exports at 11 million, with ending stocks at 6.8 million.
It is expected that U.S. production will be down another 100,000 bales once those stories (the storms) play out, said cotton marketing specialist O.A. Cleveland in a weekly newsletter released after the USDA report.
In comments broadcast on the cotton Web site theseam.com following the release of USDAs report, William B. Dunavant Jr., chairman and chief executive of cotton merchandising firm Dunavant Enterprises, Memphis, TN, said USDAs figures were close to those his company is working with.
The firm pegged production at 18.1 million bales before the reports release. While Dunavant agrees with USDAs export figure, he said mill use might be slightly on the high side. He also believes carryout will decline to 6.6 million bales following a re-evaluation of the carryout estimate from the Census Bureau. Factoring in crop losses from the storms, total ending stocks are likely to reach 6.25 million bales by the beginning of the next marketing year on Aug. 1, 2003, he said.
Dunavant noted that the torrential rains have caused quality problems in cotton from the Mid-South and the Southeast. Much of the regions crop still remained to be picked from the fields, and there continued to be concerns about yield apart from quality. Farmers in the two regions had expected a great crop before the storms came, but now they arent sure about crop yields.
Market watchers had a more bearish view of the world cotton situation. USDA projected 2002-03 world production at 88.5 million bales, down 70,000 from September, while world mill use was pegged at 96.4 million bales. But the most notable figure was that for global ending stocks, at 39.8 million bales, with a stocks-to-use ratio of 41.3 percent. Cleveland noted that world carryover increased 700,000 bales, a significant change.
The increased stocks were a reflection of USDAs estimates for world domestic consumption and world exports, he said. Estimates for these consumption categories were lowered a combined 1 million bales.
Cleveland noted that the figure is the first indication that world cotton use will not rise to anticipated levels. Should these numbers fall, then U.S. exports will also decline, putting more pressure on (the markets) attempt to climb to the high 40s (cents per pound).
Expectations for large exports remain high. Dunavant said exporters owe a large amount of 31-grade middling quality cotton to foreign mills, but that cotton is going to be history. The trade hopes to negotiate with these mills and persuade them to take a different quality of cotton. Domestic mills are expected to take slightly lower quality growths, such as strict low middling light spotted, 42-grade cotton.
He believes the U.S. will produce cotton that will be competitive in the export market and that there will be high interest among foreign mills in buying that cotton. I think theres a huge volume of pent-up demand waiting, he said. The absence of a Step 2 marketing certificate, which makes U.S. cotton prices more attractive to buyers, has slowed selling. But its reappearance, expected in the coming weeks, is likely to spur more interest. The U.S. should see substantial buying from countries such as China, Turkey and Mexico. Dunavant said these countries are the major markets for U.S. growths now and are expected to be the top markets in the future.
Industry watchers are looking both to domestic mill use and exports to perk up the U.S. cotton market. Concerns continue that mill use and exports will drop and push U.S. ending stocks above 7 million bales. The movement to higher prices, if it is to materialize, must be led by a pickup in U.S. exports, said Cleveland in his newsletter. Until we see a sustained pick up in that arena, the market will continue to waddle in the 41- to 46-cent range.
LAWRENCE, MA Malden Mills Industries, Inc., announced more good news last week, reporting that it has secured funding in the 2003 Department of Defense budget to supply Polartec® products and research and development services to the U.S. military.
The $12.4 million dollars in funding will ensure delivery of $11.4 million dollars of the Polartec components that are the foundation of the Army, Marine Corps and Special Operations Forces Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS).
Recently, a bankruptcy judge extended until Dec. 31 a deadline in Maldens reorganization process. The extension, which came at the request of attorneys for the company, will help Malden in negotiations with its creditors, the fabric maker said.
Polartec gear has seen extensive use in Afghanistan during this past year and has performed well under the harshest of combat conditions, the company said. Clothing items manufactured with Polartec fabrics have been awarded a 97 percent approval rating by the U.S. military, the highest rating ever recorded for a piece of issued gear, Malden added.
Included in the budget is $1 million dollars for the research and development of Rugged Textile Electronic Garments for use in Combat Casualty Care. Maldens partners on this project include Foster-Miller of Waltham, MA, Exponent of Irvine, CA, and East Carolina University.
GREENSBORO, NC VF Corp. said Oct. 17 it will close five more U.S. plants and eliminate 3,000 jobs.
The news came as the apparel maker reported record net income and earnings per share for the third quarter.
VF will close plants in Woodstock and Luray, VA; Coalgate and Okemah, OK; and Lebanon, MO. All of the plants manufacturer jeans.
A year ago, VF began a major restructuring program that included the closure of 30 to 35 plants and the elimination of 13,000 employees. Two other jeans-manufacturing plant closures in El Paso, TX, were announced then and will occur in December and next May.
When the closures are complete, the company will have about 18,000 domestic employees and about 36,000 offshore employees.
Restructuring moves are paying dividends, the company said. Diluted earnings per share rose 28 percent to $1.15 from 90 cents in the prior years third quarter.
Earnings increased 25 percent to $128.6 million from $103.2 million last year.
We are extremely pleased with these excellent results, said Mackey J. McDonald, chairman and CEO. With our Strategic Repositioning Program, we took the right actions at the right time, as demonstrated by our ability to deliver record earnings despite very challenging market conditions.
At the same time, the increase in marketing investment behind our brands is paying off in the form of market share gains across our major consumer categories, including most of our jeans, intimates and outdoor businesses.
During the year the company has rapidly increased its Asian sourcing capabilities, realized greater efficiencies in its offshore facilities and demonstrated its ability to operate with leaner inventories, McDonald added.
Despite an increasingly challenging retail environment, sales were flat, at $1.4 billion, the company added. The companys jeans and outdoor brands are performing strongly in Europe, VF said.
WINSTON-SALEM, NC Hanes, makers of the classic white underwear T-shirt, announced the official retirement of its T-shirt tag, thus eliminating the urge to scratch and the need to tuck the tag back in for millions of T-shirt wearing Americans.
A recent survey by Hanes found that two out of every three men consider underwear T-shirt tags to be annoying, and close to half of all men surveyed routinely rip or cut the tags out of their shirts. Men can now put down their scissors, as Hanes is printing tag information directly on the T-shirt.
We have always put a premium on comfort, said Terri Thompson of Hanes. What better way to make our all-American favorite the Hanes T-shirt more comfortable than to retire that last annoyance the tag? Now, Hanes is inviting all of America to go tagless.
In recognition of its many years of dedicated and some may say irritating service, Hanes is paying tribute to the T-shirt tag by retiring it with great fanfare across America. Hanes will host star-studded retirement parties with celebrities Mr. T, Dick Clark, Yogi Berra, John Paxson and George Gervin.
NEW YORK Best Manufacturing Group LLC has completed the acquisition of H. W. Baker Linen Co., Inc., the Mahwah, NJ-based supplier of textiles, amenities and guest room supplies to the North American hospitality industry.
The purchase reflects Bests strategy to focus on its core textile and garment businesses, expand product and service lines and to grow through acquisition, the company said.
Combining Baker and Bests Hospitality Business Unit, the new division will conduct business as H.W. Baker Linen Co. LLC, creating a complementary business that leverages the broad hospitality textile and amenity product lines of Baker with the napery, garment and uniform lines of Best.
Baker will continue to operate out of its Mahwah headquarters.
ELKTON, MD W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc., manufacturer of GORE-TEX® fabric used in technical garments and rugged outdoor protective wear, has licensed its GORE-TEX® Cleanroom Garment Fabric to Vidaro Corporation, a maker of cleanroom garments.
Vidaro will utilize the GORE-TEX Fabric to introduce a new line of contamination control wear for critical applications in the United States.
GORE-TEX Cleanroom Garment Fabric is the highest-performing media to offer breathable comfort and flexible fit, according to Vidaro.
Featuring 99.9999 percent filtration efficiency at 0.12 microns, the fabric provides a reliable contamination barrier while allowing the release of body heat and perspiration vapor, the company added.
W. L. Gore is best known for its GORE-TEX Fabric used in military, fire fighting and extreme outdoor applications.
WesTek has achieved ISO 9002 certification in its Tire Cord and Royal Cord Divisions.
Tire Cord yarns are used in all kinds of tires, hoses, golf club grips, etc. Royal Cord yarns are used in commercial, residential and automotive hoses.
ISO, the International Organization of Standardization, is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies and is administered and approved by registrars throughout the world. American Global Standards is the registrar for WesTek.
To achieve certification, management at WesTek developed a Quality System, which includes detailed procedures and instructions for all operations within the Tire Cord and Royal Cord Divisions that affect quality. In addition, employees were trained to ensure they know exactly how to carry out every aspect of the operation.
RICHMOND, VA In the early 1970s, textile makers employed nearly 500,000 people throughout Virginia and the Carolinas. Today, that figure has dropped to just over 200,000.
In the recently released issue of Region Focus, Charles Gerena examines the major reasons for that decline in employment including increased foreign competition and the adoption of labor-saving technological advances and assesses the prospects for the industrys future.
The glory days of the textile industry have probably passed, Gerena writes. But talk to most textile executives, and they say it is premature to count them out.
The painful restructuring plans the industry implemented during the last decade may just be starting to pay off.
Region Focus, a quarterly business magazine published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, covers the economy and business activities of the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and most of West Virginia.
For free copies of Region Focus, contact the Banks Public Affairs Department at 804-697-8109. The articles are available on-line at www.rich.frb.org/pubs/regionfocus.
At the ITMA Asia show in October 2001 Sulzer Textil unveiled the G6300F, the prototype of a new terry weaving machine based on the proven G6300 rapier machine.
Since its market launch in April, numerous leading terry weavers in Europe and Asia have opted for the G6300F, according to Sulzer an indication that its exemplary performance and excellent patterning options, in combination with top fabric quality, have quickly convinced buyers, the manufacturer added.
Wherever top-quality, exclusively patterned terry has to be produced with maximum economy the new terry version of the rapier weaving machine is the ideal solution, the company said. The G6300F covers the entire range of terry fabrics, from heavy velours through matched articles to bulk terry for large orders.
In the G6300F, Sulzer said that robust engineering design, control and support electronics, automation matched to requirements and state-of-the-art terry technology have been combined to create a weaving machine with outstanding performance.
The terry technology is based on the modern, yarn-friendly sley motion control. Thanks to dynamic pile control the pile height is freely programmable and can be changed from one pick group to another. This allows unusual patterning, e.g. wave-form or relief-like pile structures to be created in combination with different terry techniques; the type of loop formation is also freely programmable.
It is possible to switch between 3-, 4-, 5-, 6- and 7 pick terry at any time. Transitions from flat to pile fabric at borders and pattern changes can be accomplished with high precision. With the color selector for up to eight weft yarns, there are practically no limitations on the design of the terry fabric or its borders, Sulzer said. High-grade terry can thus be produced with a high, dense pile and a maximum loose pick distance of 24 mm.
Even in its basic version, equipped with a rotary dobby and 20 shafts, the G6300F is capable of weaving a wide variety of terry fabrics. A jacquard head is available as an option.
With seven working widths ranging from 220 to 360 cm, the G6300F is well prepared for a broad spectrum of applications. Multi-panel weaving can be employed for weaving wide towels at the maximum weft insertion rate, optionally with leno or tucked selvedges.
A highly sensitive, electronically controlled warp left-off system is provided for both ground and pile warps. The pile warp let-off system in particular reacts quickly and precisely to pattern-dependent pile warp consumption, thus ensuring uniform pile formation from the full to the finished warp beam.
The weft density for the electronically controlled cloth take-up can be programmed in minute steps. For matched towels, the towel lengths and borders are also programmed at the terminal, via the number of picks.
Since its launch in April, the G6300F terry weaving machine has proved a major success, attracting numerous orders from customers in China, India, Portugal and Spain, Sulzer reported. Sales negotiations for further machines are nearing completion, added the manufacturer. By the end of the year, Sulzer said it expects to have sold well over 100 G6300F terry weaving machines.
THE TEXTILE and apparel industry was once a manufacturing mansion, so to speak, in North Carolina and elsewhere in the South. Built on a solid foundation, it housed many people in its multiple rooms, was elegantly furnished, embellished by towering columns and stood proudly on a lush grass carpet. In short, it was the envy of the neighborhood.
But now the place looks like a ramshackle shack, with paint peeling, shutters dangling, windows broken and weeds growing all about its feet. Which is why, perhaps, so many Tar Heel State candidates for elected office have tried to convince voters that they are best suited to serve as landlord of the dilapidated structure. Theres nothing wrong with this place that a little fixin up wont cure, hopefuls tell voters. If elected, Ill slap a little paint on the walls, redecorate the inside and hire a lawn care service. Oh, and Ill build a fence to keep any more vagrants from getting in and strewing their cheap crap around.
Its a good place to hang around if youre running for office. After all, so many North Carolina voters used to live in this dwelling known as textile and apparel manufacturing. Given recent debate fodder and the spate of advertising messages, though, you would think the fate of the industry is the make-or-break campaign issue in many NC races. And it very well may be.
TEXTILES AND apparel and, to a certain extent, furniture and tobacco have been a focal point of several major races. In the Senate race to decide Jesse Helms successor, Erskine Bowles and Elizabeth Dole both have been wallowing in the mud over this and other issues. (But what else would you expect? North Carolina Senatorial races have always been fought in the slop.)
The two candidates, in a debate on Oct. 19, waged a fierce argument over
whether or not Dole attacked Bowles wife Springs
Industries Chairman and CEO Crandall Bowles in a TV ad. In the ad in
question, a voice says, Erskine Bowles ... says hell protect our
jobs from Mexico and China. But his $2 billion family textile company is laying
off North Carolina workers and buying textile facilities in Mexico and China.
... Hell say anything to get elected. A couple of weeks earlier,
Bowles told reporters: She has the gall the absolute gall
to attack my wife. She better leave my wife alone.
When they stick to the issues, both candidates seem to have workable ideas to help the industry. Dole has advanced the notion to find the resources to develop a textile tracer for U.S. yarn and fabrics, which would help determine if finished goods returning to the country under certain trade agreements indeed consist of U.S. components. Bowles, meanwhile, has said that he wont support any future trade agreements until the U.S. starts enforcing the laws already on the books.
TWO U.S. HOUSE races in North Carolina also are putting the spotlight on the industry particularly as it relates to the connection of trade legislation to job losses. Political newcomers Ron Daugherty and Chris Kouri are both taking their incumbent opponents to task over their support of free trade, which has raised the visibility of their respective races.
Daugherty, a textile company owner running on the evil-NAFTA-and-its-wicked-stepsisters platform, has vilified opponent Cass Ballenger and made the 16-year House member campaign much harder than usual. So much harder, in fact, that the 76-year-old Ballenger recently said, Im a nice old guy. I dont understand why he wants to beat up on an old man.
And Kouri, opposing Robin Hayes, has barbecued Hayes over his vote for trade promotion authority (TPA) last December a vote Hayes changed his mind to make, he said, after receiving assurances that the textile industry would be helped. Kouri has tried to make Hayes original vote the central issue against the incumbent, saying such a move will lead to further job erosion. Hayes, a hosiery mill owner who voted against the final TPA measure this summer, also has his work cut out for him in order to retain his seat in a redrawn district.
The good news for this stately manor known as textiles and apparel manufacturing is that its issues are now on the front-burner. Whether or not it becomes a house of cards after Nov. 5 remains to be seen.