By Alfred Dockery
NASHVILLE, TN Attendees and exhibitors of the recent IFAI Expo at the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center showed surprising optimism. More than 5,800 attendees from 45 countries visited more than 440 booths, according to the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), Roseville, MN, which put on the show.
We are grateful to the attendees and exhibitors who supported this exposition, said IFAI President Stephen Warner. We are certain that their presence at this years show will contribute to their success in the very near future and into the coming years.
While attendance was down considerably from the 7,400 attendees at last years Expo in Orlando, none of the exhibitors who spoke to STN were concerned. They said they believed that quality overwhelmed quantity at this event.
The show is as good as could be expected, said Harry Gobble of Glen Raven Custom Fabrics LLC. Those customers who come every year are here. Everyone is generally optimistic. The biggest drop has been in international visitors.
The general consensus among exhibitors was that most of the serious prospects came to the show, while many of the tire kickers stayed home.
Parker Hatchett of KoSa said that the questions he received from attendees this year were more probing and more technical. He found it refreshing.
IFAI took pains to keep exhibitors posted on developments after the September 11th tragedy. Several exhibitors pointed to IFAIs efforts to stay in touch as a major boost to their comfort factor.
They really kept us informed, said Tim Haas of Tier-Rack. It seemed like we heard from them every day.
About 25 percent of the exhibitors were there for the first time. Many had sent representatives to walk the show for years and were now there looking for new business.
Evaluations of the show by first-timers such as Mount Vernon Mills, Bally Ribbon Mills and Belton Industries ranged from real good to great turnout.
In addition to the exhibit floor, the show also had 55 educational programs, including the pre-conference Textile Technology Forum. The programs covered a diverse range of industry-related topics, including architectural structures, awning, protective textiles and sports and recreational products.
We were impressed by the full rooms at the seminars that explored emerging industry markets, such as medical, safety and protective and filtration, Warner said.
Military presentations conducted by Richard Healing, director of the Office of Safety and Survivability, U.S. Department of the Navy, and Jack London of Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), gave the proceedings an air of purpose and patriotism.
I stand in awe of the people who were going up into the World Trade Center while the building was coming down, said Healing, who lost three friends in the Pentagon on September 11th. I dont know if we can pay them fitting tribute, but well try.
Healing presented a program identifying military applications for textiles, while London gave a review of DSCP business practices and future business opportunities for professionals involved in the military and safety and protective technical fabric industries.
By Devin Steele
The American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) said that the Bush administrations request to eliminate duties on imports of textiles and apparel from Pakistan will put even more pressure on the beleaguered domestic textile and apparel industry.
The duty eliminations will cause yet more job losses and plant closures in the U.S. textile industry, threatening its 470,000 workers and its suppliers that include U.S. cotton and wool growers and manmade fiber producers, the national trade group said in a press release.
The White House is seeking the measure, part of a broad aid program, as a reward for Pakistan for taking its side in the war on terrorism and to help underpin its collapsing economy. The legislation, which requires Congressional approval, would allow the administration to eliminate tariffs completely for one year on all textiles and apparel imports from Pakistan.
The program includes an additional $500 million in direct aid, loans and debt rescheduling.
The U.S. textile industry is already reeling from imports from Pakistan and other Asian countries at artificially low prices resulting from devalued currencies across Asia, ATMI President Charles Hayes, chairman of Guilford Mills, said. Eliminating duties will depress prices still further and dramatically increase imports. Our estimates show the damage to the U.S. textile industry could reach billions of dollars.
This proposal will put many Americans out of work, some of whom are sending their sons and daughters into harms way in Afghanistan. Causing yet more economic hardship in the United States, particularly in the Southeast, is not the way to win the war on terrorism.
The institute proposed the authorization of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to provide government-paid insurance for all textile and apparel shipments coming from Pakistan over the next three years. OPIC was created to provide political risk insurance and loans to help U.S. companies do business in developing nations worldwide.
This would guarantee importers and retailers against any disruptions because of political or economic instability. This should return the situation to normal and not cause yet more hardship for U.S. textile and apparel workers and companies, ATMI said.
By Devin Steele
CHARLOTTE, NC Industrial Laboratory Equipment Co., Inc. (ILE), celebrating a half century in business, has become a fixture at the Exintex textile machinery trade show in Peubla, Mexico.
The company has no other choice, according to Harry Simmons, president and principal. With business shrinking in the U.S., ILE has for the last decade or so expanded beyond these borders for business opportunities.
If were not there, people will wonder where we are, said Simmons, whose testing equipment company will be among dozens of American firms exhibiting at the show this week, Tuesday through Friday. A lot of our customers and potential customers will be there.
The 10-year-old show has grown into the largest textile-related exhibition in Mexico. Last year, Exintex attracted a record 22,000 people and more than 1,000 exhibitors in 28,000 square meters of space. Organizers said they are expecting similar numbers this year.
At the show, ILE will exhibit its latest model DS-65 evenness tester upgrade with expanded memory and statistical data recall; its Cyros CAD system, which uses data from the evenness tester and performs knitted or woven fabric simulation; its other testing equipment, including twist testers, yarn reels, scales and balances; and Q-Panels newest Xenon fading and weathering device.
As it has been with this event, ILE also has been a fixture in the textile industry for 50 years running. The company has survived and grown by expanding and improving its product line, customizing products, adapting to the business environment and remaining committed to its customers, Simmons said.
William Floyd opened Industrial Laboratory Equipment as a side business in 1951. Serving as Uster Corp.s first sales and service manager in the U.S., he opened the company in a shop behind his house in Matthews, NC, near Charlotte.
New monitoring equipment coming on stream meant that mills, for the first time, were able to test their production process and fine-tune their machines.
This new quality control and testing movement began in the early 50s, said Simmons. Bill saw the need for a single source for testing equipment, as quality control testing came of age.
In its early years, ILE distributed other companies equipment, including machines that checked such things as sliver weight, roving weight, yarn weight, yarn twist, strength and appearance. The company also provided training for this equipment.
That remained a part-time job for Floyd for more than 10 years when, in 1962, he decided to go at it full time. He hired a staff of three or four and built an office/shop across the street from his home.
In the late 60s, Floyd, who happened to be one of the preeminent authorities in Confederate munitions, met a high school student at a Civil War Roundtable meeting. Floyd soon hired that teenager Simmons to service microscopes, one of the companys top products then.
Simmons continued to work part-time while he was a student at UNC Charlotte and later the University of South Carolina, where he double majored in electrical engineering and political science.
While serving active duty in the Naval Reserves, Simmons was asked by Floyd, whose health was failing, if he would like to take over the business when his tour of duty was complete. Six months later and his first day back in the States, Simmons, going on about six hours of sleep, drove to Stevenson, AL, to service yarn clearers at Avondale Mills.
I hit the road as a textile man then and Ive been one ever since, he said.
Floyd phased out of the business over the next two years. Simmons would soon put his own stamp on the operation.
We were selling a lot of European equipment, for the single reason it was not being produced in America, Simmons said. I thought we could produce high-quality equipment here at a far better price than the European equipment.
So the company developed its first instrument about 1973, Simmons said. Unifi requested a machine that was not available anywhere else, he recalled. It was a special yarn reel and we said, yes, well make it to your specs.
A big advantage was we were the only company in quality control in these mills and, with our personal relationship with those plant personnel, they would tell us what they needed and how it needed to be adapted to the American textile mills, he added.
ILE exhibited the instrument at the American Textile Machinery Exhibition-International trade show that year and it was a big hit, he said. Other mills began to ask ILE to develop equipment for their specific use.
To this day we still build customized equipment its hand-made right here, Simmons said.
ILE later became the first company in the world to build a digital textile scale.
In addition to its customization services, the company owes much of its success over the past decade or so to the development of a digital evenness tester conversion. Leland Durrette, the companys chief electronics designer engineer who holds a masters degree in physics, devoted 10 years to making this conversion happen, Simmons said.
Durrettes design team includes Keith Grindstaff, a former nuclear submariner and manager of the evenness tester department. Grindstaffs extensive knowledge of evenness testers and their circuitry has ensured the DS-65 is a practical instrument with advanced functions.
Our industry has always gone through economic cycles and mills have always been pressed to buy newer equipment, Simmons said. Departments such as quality control and testing, which dont produce pounds and output for the mill, have always operated under tight budgets. But with this conversion, we have given mills the ability to take their older equipment and modernize it at a fraction of the cost of new instruments.
By Devin Steele
MYRTLE BEACH, SC Various links in the textile and apparel supply chain were examined during the Textile Quality Control Associations 50th Fall Conference here last month.
One speaker even assailed the chain itself, whose length is shackling the industry as a whole, he said.
We need to cut some people out of the supply chain, to be very blunt about it, said the always outspoken Jim Conner, an advisor to and former executive vice president of the American Yarn Spinners Association of America. What service does the guy whos sitting in the Empire State Building with a bubble-gum chewing, half-a-day-telephone-talking secretary provide? And thats his only investment. Hes a converter.
We dont have the converter kind of people in our companies that we need. We need to have someone in every company whose primary job is to bridge the gap from the yarn or the fabric or whatever we make to the retail chain.
Besides his opinion on that matter, Conner also updated the group on various trade issues, including trade promotion authority, the World Trade Organization, the Andean Trade Pact and Free Trade for the Americas.
On trade in general, he opened with a caveat: that he hoped he wouldnt come across as protectionist.
But there is no such thing as free trade. There never has been, he said. I believe there is something in between. Youve heard the term fair trade and that will enable us to get the maximum benefit, where we have some comparative advantages to deliver the final product to the retailers.
Now, the other thing thats a problem is that when youre talking about free trade youre not talking about competing with a profit-making manufacturer necessarily. I mean, if anybody can tell me theyve made any money in Pakistan producing yarn based on the price they sell it in the U.S. for, I wont understand how. Theres something happening there that is different from what we do the accounting system, the tax base, the lack of environmental protections, the lack of regulations all of these things that we have to contend with.
Another speaker, Mike Todaro, talked about a component that falls roughly in the middle of the supply chain apparel.
For the apparel industry, retail has slowed down we all know that, said Todaro, managing director of American Apparel Producers Network (AAPN), The Sourcing Network of the Americas®. The fundamental problem for people who make clothing is finding a customer and getting an order. It is really hard to do that.
But you know whats even harder as an apparel manufacturer? Its getting found. What happens when somebody wants to make a transaction? How do you find a contract?
Thats where AAPN comes in, said Todaro, who described his organization as a dating service. he said. We just match people up. We make money on marriage counseling.
Virtually all of the work of the organization is done on the Internet, he said, noting that the AAPN (www.usawear.org) gets 2,500-3,000 visitors a day.
Dawson Textile Machinery and Arcadia Textile Machinery have signed a joint venture to promote the air lay systems by Dr. Otto Angleitner (DOA), a leader in the market.
Through DOA, new products are being developed rapidly. Products from DOAs air lay can be made from 100 percent or blends of all natural and manmade fibers, including fiberglass, wood, coconut and even straw, company officials said. Products include but are not limited to: molded, needled, insulation, automotive, high loft, geo-textiles, apparel, furnishings, mattresses, carpets, carpet fiber pads, fiber glass mats, filtration, etc.
Located in Wels, Austria, DOA has a trial room available for opening and blending of fibers, the versatility of one or two air lay sections for mats up to a thickness of 350 mm (13.8 inches), with the ability to apply powder or liquid additives. The air laid web can be processed through a DOA needleloom and/or a Schott & Meissner oven.
CLIFFSIDE, NC The Cone Mills denim plant here has received its first Raitech Quickwash Plus machine and is building the tabletop unit directly into its denim manufacturing process.
Some Quickwash Plus customers keep the machine in the lab, said Lan Brady, quality analysis manager for Cone. But for us, its best suited for use in our process.
The completely vertical Cliffside plant turns bales of cotton into finished rolls of denim for shipment to cutters. Brady said he expects the new Quickwash Plus machine designed to speed testing of fabric dimensional stability and other properties to go a long way toward helping the plant reduce its number of denim re-runs.
In the past, he said, plant re-runs were extremely time-consuming. They required a trip to the warehouse, the cutting of a two-yard fabric sample followed by three washings in a conventional home washing machine per AATCC 135 standards.
OMAHA, NE Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., the investment firm of billionaire financier Warren Buffett, has reached a deal to buy bankrupt clothing maker Fruit of the Loom Ltd.
Buffett offered $835 million for the company, outbidding other suitors.
Berkshire would acquire substantially all of the basic apparel business of Fruit of the Loom, which filed for bankruptcy in December 1999. The company is currently operating as a debtor-in-possession.
Weve agreed to buy Fruit of the Loom for two major reasons: the strength of the brand and the managerial talent of John Holland, Buffett said.
Holland, the companys chief operating officer, said, Fruit is excited to become part of the Berkshire Hathaway family of companies. Berkshires acquisition will complete the companys tremendous operational turnaround and pave the way for emergence from Chapter 11.
Fruit of the Loom and Berkshire said they expect the closing to occur in the first quarter of next year.
The buy would mark Berkshires 11th acquisition in two years, including last years purchase of Shaw Industries, the worlds No. 1 carpet maker.
CLEMSON, SC A Narrow Fabrics Technical Workshop sponsored by Clemson University is slated for this week in Charlotte, NC.
The seminar will take place Wednesday through Thursday (Nov. 14-15) at the Embassy Suites Hotel.
A site visit to Jakob Mueller of Americas headquarters will highlight the event.
Among speakers will be Ed Vaughn of Clemson, Dr. Rock Pulver of Honeywell, Inc., John Owen of August Herzog USA, Jason White of Elk River, Inc., Richard Barndt of McGinley Mills, Inc., Bill Giokas of Lamb Knitting Machine Corp., Wally Overman of Rieter ICBT, Gwen Perkins of the N.C. Center for Applied Textile Technology and others.
Cost is $895 each or $795 each for two or more registering from the same organization. To register online visit www.clemson.edu; or call Kay James at (864) 656-2200.
GREENSBORO, NC Galey & Lord said it has hired an investment bank to explore its alternatives after announcing a wider-than-expected loss for the fourth quarter.
The company has engaged Houlihan, Lokey, Howard & Zukin to evaluate options.
The textile makers quarterly earnings included about $66 million in charges related to cost reduction and loss avoidance measures. Sales for the quarter fell about 27 percent.
The slowdown at retail, lack of consumer confidence and rise of imports, particularly from Asia, are the major and continuing negatives to our business, said Arthur C. Wiener, chairman and CEO.
ATHENS, GA Tuxedo maker Mens Apparel Group last week announced a second round of domestic layoffs.
The company said it is moving some production offshore and reducing its work force here by 84 jobs. About 130 people will continue to be employed here.
The layoffs will be effective Jan. 5, the company said. Mens Apparel previously cut 176 jobs, effective in August.
The firm blamed the moves on foreign competition, the high costs of U.S. manufacturing and the ailing economy.
By Jack Faris
SOMEWHERE HIGH above the forbidding and dangerous terrain of Afghanistan, an American military pilot focuses intensely on the assigned mission, but his thoughts are never far from September 11, 2001, a day that will forever be etched in the minds of the people of the United States.
Somewhere on Main Street U.S.A., millions of small-business owners will learn of this pilots mission, and they too will reflect on that infamous day when thousands of fellow citizens perished and hundreds of small businesses near Ground Zero vanished.
On the 11th day of the 11th month, many will pause to honor those who nearly 83 years earlier fought and died in World War I so that, in the words of then-President Woodrow Wilson, the world would be made safe for democracy.
September 11, 2001. November 11, 1918. Although decades apart, the two dates will serve to remind us that not everyone shares the American Dream, nor do they wish us to live in peace in a democratic society.
NOVEMBER 11 was Veterans Day. It was more than an annual holiday, it was a time of reflection and thanksgiving that we owe to those who have put their lives on the line so that our nation can pursue its values, its hopes, its dreams. It was a day to salute those who, through their ultimate sacrifices, have allowed this nation to continue to lift the torch of freedom for all to see.
On this day, many small employers did more than pause to honor veterans. They offered their hopes and prayers for the safe return of key personnel owners, as well as employees who have been called by their nation to fight off the latest threat to our national safety and security.
Veterans Day is a symbol of selflessness and dedication that reaches back into the history of this nation to its very beginning, when citizen farmers and small-business owners and patriots of all walks of life put down their tools of trade, picked up their muskets and marched off to defend their country.
SMALL-BUSINESS owners from one corner of the country to the other are rising to challenges which threaten the very survival of our nation. Not only have they launched massive relief efforts and swapped their shop aprons and business suits for the uniforms of military service, but they are also dedicating themselves to ensuring that their companies keep doing business without skipping a beat. Thats equally important in our nations war to defeat an impending economic threat, one that could inflict long-lasting financial harm on us at a time when it can least be afforded.
Whether dutys call places us in the cockpit of a supersonic bomber or behind the counter of a Main Street small business, we, as Americans all, proudly acknowledged our debt to our nations veterans on November 11.
Jack Faris is president of NFIB, the nations largest small business advocacy group. A non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 1943, NFIB represents the consensus views of its 600,000 members in Washington, DC, and all 50 state capitals. More information is available on-line at www.nfib.com.