NCTO Issues Statement Commending Department of Homeland Security for Significantly Expanding the UFLPA Entity List & Stepping Up Enforcement...

May 16, 2024

WASHINGTON, DC—National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) President and CEO Kim Glas issued a statement today praising the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for adding 26 Chinese textile companies to the Uyghur forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) Entity List, bringing the total number of entities whose goods are banned from being imported into the U.S. market to 65.  

Statement by NCTO President and CEO Kim Glas

“We commend DHS for significantly expanding the critical UFLPA Entity List and stepping up enforcement of entities that are egregiously trading in slave labor cotton sourced from Xinjiang, China. Slave labor cotton as well as man-made fibers produced in Xinjiang are feeding into clothing made in China and numerous other countries around the world that is destined for the U.S. market, severely undermining U.S. domestic producers.

“Today’s announcement marks an important step forward in following through on anti-forced labor legislation and sends a strong message to known offenders, enterprises and governments that the U.S. government is increasing its enforcement activities and dedication to cracking down on imports of goods made with forced labor.

“Chinese cotton produced with forced labor in Xinjiang is flooding the global marketplace and entering the U.S. market as downstream products. Some 76 percent of all Chinese cotton products contain Xinjiang cotton, which leads to textiles and apparel made with forced labor bleeding into global supply chains, most notably in Asia but also in our free trade agreement regions.  The scourge of slave labor in Xinjiang involves not only cotton but extends to man-made fiber products as well.

“As a result, American textile plants have been forced to close and lay off workers. We have lost 17 textile plants in the past several months due in part to these illegal trade practices that are undermining the industry’s competitiveness.

“While the expanded Entity List is a positive step to increasing enforcement of goods made with forced labor, the list should include more companies outside of China that may be trading in goods and inputs made with forced labor.

“The U.S. also needs to close the de minimis loophole that is facilitating imported slave labor goods, toxic products and illicit fentanyl and other narcotics. Since the vast majority of de minimis imports are uninspected by CBP, this mechanism allows China and others to ship goods with impunity directly to U.S. consumers that violate our slave labor prohibitions and skirt consumer safety standards. 

“In addition, we have recommended to DHS and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) other essential actions to mitigate the economic harm and to maximize civil and criminal penalties against trade predators.

They include:

  • Increased UFLPA enforcement and inspections of imports to prevent textile and apparel goods from entering our market, including in the de minimis environment
  • Immediate expansion of isotopic testing of suspected shipments and other targeting tools
  • Ramped up textile and apparel enforcement with regard to the Western Hemisphere trade partner countries, including onsite production verification visits and other targeting measures to enforce rules of origin and address backdoor UFLPA violations

“The U.S. textile industry is experiencing one of the worst downturns in its history. We welcome today’s actions as part of the robust DHS textile enforcement plan that Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has announced and begun to implement. It is critical to have all these actions in place to act as an effective deterrent to China and other entities that are harming our domestic manufacturing base.”

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NCTO is a Washington, DC-based trade association that represents domestic textile manufacturers.

  • U.S. employment in the textile supply chain was 501,755 in 2023.
  • The value of shipments for U.S. textiles and apparel was $64.8 billion in 2023.
  • U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel were $29.7 billion in 2023.
  • Capital expenditures for textiles and apparel production totaled $2.27 billion in 2021, the last year for which data is available.

CONTACT:

Kristi Ellis

Vice President, Communications

National Council of Textile Organizations

kellis@ncto.org |  202.281.9305

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NCTO Outlines Immediate Steps U.S. Can Take to Reverse Downward Trajectory in U.S. Textile Manufacturing & Counter Predatory Trade...

May 2, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. –National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) President and CEO Kim Glas told the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) today the U.S. must be more deliberate in developing trade and investment policies that support the growth and resilience of the vital domestic textile industry and counter China’s dominance through illegal trade practices.

Glas testified at a USTR hearing held at the U.S. International Trade Commission today as part of the agency’s supply chain review on promoting supply chain resilience. During the hearing, the industry outlined concrete steps the administration and Congress could immediately take to help build a strong, resilient supply chain. 

“We sincerely thank U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai and the USTR team for leading this endeavor. We are particularly grateful to Ambassador Tai for her recent visit to North Carolina and participation in a roundtable with our industry to amplify USTR’s supply chain efforts and ensure broad participation from stakeholders in this critical analysis to bolster domestic resiliency,” Glas said.

“While the domestic textile industry is an integral part of the military and public health industrial base, unchecked foreign predatory trade practices, a lack of effective customs enforcement, and misguided trade policy proposals are creating unstable and unsustainable market dynamics,” Glas said in her testimony. “The confluence of these factors is threatening the future of domestic textile manufacturing as well as the textile cand apparel coproduction chain between U.S. and our Western Hemisphere free trade agreement (FTA) partners responsible for $40 billion in annual two-way trade.”

No fewer than 14 U.S. textile factories have been permanently shuttered in recent months, and an estimated 100,000 jobs have been lost in the U.S. and broader hemisphere, she said.

Notably China and other Asian countries compete by “sourcing subsidized textile inputs from China, including those made from slave labor in Xinjiang where 20 percent of global cotton is produced and where synthetics like rayon have been tied to forced labor production” and “a wholesale lack of meaningful labor and environmental standards,” she stated.

“One of the most important actions Congress and the Biden administration can take to counter these illegal trade practices is to close the de minimis loophole. This loophole in U.S. trade law allows 4 million packages a day to enter the U.S. duty free and largely uninspected. Customs and Border Protection reports that textile and apparel goods comprise an estimated half of these entries and China is the largest beneficiary.  These entries are not subject to Section 301 duties and have been linked to Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) violations as well as dangerous and counterfeit goods and illicit drugs like fentanyl and precursors. The administration must use its existing authorities to close this dangerous loophole and Congress must act immediately to pass legislation to completely close it,” Glas noted.

A textile and apparel enforcement plan released by the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in early April is an important first step to combatting fraud and circumvention of free trade agreement rules and trade laws —  it must be continuous and aggressive with penalties to help deter fraud and illegal trade activities,” Glas said.

To reverse the current downward trajectory in U.S. textile manufacturing and stop the damage to the industry, Glas recommended the following:

  • Immediately Close the De Minimis tariff loophole
  • Dramatically ramp up and publicize customs enforcement and trade penalty activities
  • Preserve and protect the yarn forward rules of origin
  • Reject proposals to expand Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) product coverage to textiles or apparel
  • Immediately pass the Miscellaneous Tariff bill
  • Increase Section 301 penalties on textiles and apparel imports
  • Fully implement the Make PPE in America Act and expand procurement opportunities
  • Enhance tax incentives to bolster domestic and regional production

“China is being highly strategic and purposeful in their quest for and success in gaining a stranglehold on the global supply of critical products like textiles.  The U.S. must be more deliberate moving forward and not leave this challenge by an increasingly hostile geopolitical rival unanswered.  Absent a course-correction to properly prioritize and bolster domestic manufacturing, the consequences in the next crisis will be severe and manifold,” Glas said.

See a link to the full testimony here.

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NCTO is a Washington, DC-based trade association that represents domestic textile manufacturers.

  • U.S. employment in the textile supply chain was 538,067 in 2022.
  • The value of shipments for U.S. textiles and apparel was $65.8 billion in 2022.
  • U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel were $34 billion in 2022.
  • Capital expenditures for textiles and apparel production totaled $2.27 billion in 2021, the last year for which data is available.

CONTACT:

Kristi Ellis

Vice President, Communications

National Council of Textile Organizations

kellis@ncto.org |  202.281.9305

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NCTO Issues Statement Supporting Rep. Jennifer Wexton’s Letter to Homeland Security Secretary to Strengthen Customs Isotopic Testing of Goods...

November 30, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) President and CEO Kim Glas issued the following statement today in support of Rep. Jennifer Wexton’s (D-VA) letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, urging his agency to step up isotopic testing of imported products containing cotton sourced from forced labor in Xinjiang, China.

The Congresswoman’s press release and letter can be found here.

Statement by NCTO President and CEO Kim Glas:

“I want to sincerely thank Rep. Wexton for raising critical questions and concerns in her letter to Secretary Mayorkas about why more isotopic testing is not being done to ensure the Department of Homeland Security’s compliance with the UFLPA, which bans tainted cotton products and other consumer goods made with forced labor from entering the U.S. market.

It is alarming that slave labor products from Xinjiang are still bleeding into the U.S. market unchecked, as the Reuters news story exposed, which also served to underscore the weaknesses of our government’s efforts to enforce the law. Congress has already allocated significant resources to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), under the DHS umbrella, for the development, procurement, and application of new technologies such as isotopic testing for cotton fibers and cotton containing products to track the geographic origin of items and inputs from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR—a region that has become synonymous with forced labor practices and human rights abuses.

It is imperative that CBP step up its overall enforcement efforts, which have shockingly been on the decline in the apparel and textile import sector, and significantly increase its isotopic testing as well as the number of contracted labs it uses.

If DHS does not act swiftly, the vital manufacturing sector that I represent, which produces a broad range of components for consumer goods, critical items such as personal protective equipment, and military products, will be further devastated as factories shutter and job losses mount, while China continues to exploit the government’s ineffective enforcement and reap the rewards of its predatory trade practices.”

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NCTO is a Washington, DC-based trade association that represents domestic textile manufacturers.

  • U.S. employment in the textile supply chain was 538,067 in 2022.
  • The value of shipments for U.S. textiles and apparel was $65.8 billion in 2022.
  • U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel were $34 billion in 2022.
  • Capital expenditures for textiles and apparel production totaled $2.27 billion in 2021, the last year for which data is available.

CONTACT:

Kristi Ellis

Vice President, Communications

National Council of Textile Organizations

kellis@ncto.org |  202.684.3091

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NCTO Member Auburn Manufacturing Hosts Deputy Assistant Secretary Jennifer Knight, Highlights Maine Manufacturers & U.S. Textile Industry’s Competitiveness

May 17, 2023

WASHINGTON – Today, National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) member Auburn Manufacturing Inc.(AMI) – an industry leader in the manufacture of advanced textiles for extreme-heat environments—hosted Jennifer Knight, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, Materials Industries, Critical Minerals and Metals with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, at the company’s state-of-the art manufacturing facility in Auburn, Maine.

A Maine textile manufacturer with over four decades of experience, AMI is a leading producer of fire-and heat-resistant materials, manufacturing the most advanced products to meet U.S. safety standards. AMI textiles are used as protection from extreme high heat in mining, shipbuilding, steelmaking and other critical industries. The company also manufactures end-use products, including a patented, modular removable insulation kit.

During the visit and tour of AMI’s facilities, AMI CEO Kathie Leonard highlighted the company’s important textile innovations and vitally important products that help fuel the Maine economy and contribute to the broader U.S. textile and apparel industry which produced $65.8 billion in output in 2022 and employed 538,000 workers.

Leonard also discussed policy priorities that have far-reaching implications for AMI, Maine manufacturers and the entire U.S. textile industry. She outlined the importance of policies directed at holding China accountable for unfair trade practices and the dumping of products on the U.S. market. Leonard also emphasized the importance of maintaining a domestic textile and apparel supply chain, enforcing “Buy American” policies in government procurement, and closing a legal loophole in U.S. trade law that continues to undermine American manufacturing and give China an advantage. Earlier this year, AMI once again spurred federal action against China, with the Commerce Department officially scrutinizing Chinese exports of silica fabric to the U.S. market.

“We were honored to host Deputy Secretary Jennifer Knight at our Auburn plant,” said Leonard. “It gave us an opportunity to not only showcase AMI’s incredibly advanced technologies, innovation and dedicated workforce but to also discuss firsthand trade policies that impact our daily operations. AMI and this entire industry have weathered severe challenges over the past three years, due to the pandemic, and ongoing pressure from China’s unfair trade practices, but we remain resilient. We appreciated the opportunity to showcase how AMI and the industry can prosper with this kind of collaboration with trade officials like Ms. Knight and the federal government as a whole.”

“SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] are the backbone of the U.S. economy and it was my privilege to visit AMI, a state-of-the-art woman-owned U.S. manufacturer which employs 50 and exports its products to more than 30 countries,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Knight. “ITA’s mission directly supports the strength and resilience of our domestic textile industry by strengthening the global competitiveness of American companies through exports and safeguarding both U.S. industry and workers against unfair trade practices through the rigorous enforcement of trade laws and agreements.”

AMI, an industry leader in the manufacture of advanced textiles for extreme-heat environments, is certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise, operating in two manufacturing facilities located in both Mechanic Falls and Auburn, Maine, and employing over 50 people.

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NCTO is a Washington, DC-based trade association that represents domestic textile manufacturers.

·   U.S. employment in the textile supply chain was 538,067 in 2022.

·   The value of shipments for U.S. textiles and apparel was $65.8 billion in 2022.

·   U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel were $34 billion in 2022.

·   Capital expenditures for textiles and apparel production totaled $2.27 billion in 2021, the last year for which data is available.

To schedule an interview with AMI, please contact Luka Ladan at Luka.Ladan@ZenicaPR.com or (617) 932-9120. For more information, please visit AuburnMFG.com.

NCTO CONTACT: Kristi Ellis

(202) 684-3091

www.ncto.org

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State of the U.S. Textile Industry Address

March 30, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC—National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) Chairman David Poston delivered the trade association’s State of the U.S. textile industry overview at NCTO’s 19th Annual Meeting on March 30.

Mr. Poston’s speech highlighted the impacts of macroeconomic factors on the U.S. textile industry and the resilience of the U.S. textile industry; trade and investment data showing growth in the sector across the board; and NCTO’s policy priorities for domestic textile manufacturers.

“The U.S. textile and apparel industry faced challenging macroeconomic conditions throughout the year,” Poston states in the speech. “Despite these challenges, there were also many positive trends that helped offset some of those pressures, including softening inflation towards the latter half of the year, coupled with a surge in onshoring and nearshoring that led to historic investments, commitments and expansion in the U.S. and the Western Hemisphere.”

A link to his full remarks as prepared for delivery are included in this press statement along with a link to a key facts infographic prepared by NCTO illustrating the current economic status of the U.S. textile industry.

Mr. Poston is President of Palmetto Synthetics, a South Carolina leading provider of specialty synthetic fibers, producing high-quality coarse denier fiber for the abrasives industry, as well as fine denier solution dyed PET.

NCTO’s annual meeting was held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington March 28-30.

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NCTO is a Washington, DC-based trade association that represents domestic textile manufacturers.

  • U.S. employment in the textile supply chain was 538,067 in 2022.
  • The value of shipments for U.S. textiles and apparel was $65.8 billion in 2022.
  • U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel were $34.0 billion in 2022.
  • Capital expenditures for textiles and apparel production totaled $2.27 billion in 2021, the last year for which data is available.

Kristi Ellis

Vice President, Communications

National Council of Textile Organizations

kellis@ncto.org  |  202.684.3091

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NCTO Announces Winner of the 2021 Paul T. O’Day Memorial Scholarship

June 29, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Council of Textile Organization’s (NCTO) Fiber Council announces Rachel Crouse of Reidsville, NC as the recipient of the 2021 Paul T. O’Day Scholarship Award.  She is the daughter of Sandra and Martin Crouse, who is employed by Unifi, Inc.

Ms. Crouse graduated in June with high academic honors and achievements from Rockingham County High School.  She will attend North Carolina State University in the fall.  She plans to pursue a career as an engineer working to reduce the environmental impacts of the textile industry. She expressed, “I am extremely grateful to be the recipient of the NCTO Paul T. O’Day Scholarship as it will help enable me to fully focus on academics through college. With the help of this scholarship, I hope to graduate early and begin making an impact either through research within a graduate studies program or through my career.”

NCTO Fiber Council Chairman David Poston, President of Palmetto Synthetics LLC, commented, “We are pleased to recognize Ms. Crouse’s record of honors and achievements and passion for critical thinking and problem solving as we name her the 2021 recipient of our Paul T. O’Day Memorial Scholarship.  On behalf of the Fiber Council, we congratulate Ms. Crouse and wish her continued success in her academic career.”

The scholarship program was created in 2014 in honor of Paul T. O’Day who served as President of the American Fiber Manufacturers Association (AFMA) for more than three decades. The Association merged with the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) in 2018, and NCTO’s Fiber Council now administers the scholarship program.  Recipients receive a $5,000 award each year, totaling $20,000 for four years of study.  Sons or daughters of NCTO’s Fiber Council member company employees are eligible to apply.

NCTO is a Washington, DC-based trade association that represents domestic textile manufacturers, including artificial and synthetic filament and fiber producers. 

  • U.S. employment in the textile supply chain was 530,000 in 2020.
  • The value of shipments for U.S. textiles and apparel was $64.4 billion in 2020.
  • U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel were $25.4 billion in 2020.
  • Capital expenditures for textiles and apparel production totaled $2.38 billion in 2019, the last year for which data is available.

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CONTACT: Kristi Ellis

(202) 684-3091

www.ncto.org

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Chuck Wilson, Plant Manager, Parkdale

Chuck Wilson, Plant Manager, Parkdale

Chuck Wilson, 68, has worked in textiles for 43 years – with no plans to retire from an industry he loves.

He joined Parkdale, the largest yarn producer in the U.S., as a supervisor in 2001, and the next year was asked to start up a new yarn-twisting plant for the company in Mount Holly, N.C. Today, Chuck manages a Parkdale facility that grew from 20 employees to 75.

Chuck takes immense pride in his work, adding that his employees are equally as passionate about the products they make. Every package of yarn must meet exact technical specifications in order to process properly at the next step, he adds.

“I let them know that they are important, that everybody’s important to the whole and that the product they make is important,” Chuck says. “We keep open lines of communication, and I keep them posted on how we’re doing as a plant and a company.”

As a testament to his love for the industry, after joining Parkdale, Chuck kept his home in Spartanburg, S.C., and has commuted about 124 miles round-trip every day since. He’s now on his third car after logging nearly 500,000 miles on his first vehicle and about 200,000 miles on this second car. And he’s still chugging along.

“It’s been a great career for me, and great for my family,” Chuck says. “I would never have the quality of living I’ve had without textiles. The industry has been good to me and many of the people I’ve met are lifelong friends. I’m blessed.”

When severe shortages arose in in U.S. and global PPE in the early days of the pandemic, Parkdale was one of the first companies to step forward to help, leading a coalition of U.S. textile and apparel makers that worked with the federal government to address this issue. Since then, Parkdale and its partners have produced millions of PPE items, including face masks and gowns, for frontline workers as well as consumers.

Chuck’s plant was able to quickly retool its production for PPE inputs, a job every employee there takes seriously, he says.

We’re helping supply people what they need on the frontline and we’re going to win this battle. We want to win – that’s the American spirit.

“We look at this as a battle against an invisible enemy,” he says. “When you see war movies, you see soldiers fighting but you don’t see what goes in to support them. My brother was in Operation Desert Storm, and he was in support. He didn’t fight, but he helped provide the materials for the frontline. Without those materials, the soldiers can’t fight. And that’s the same thing with the PPE. We’re helping supply people what they need on the frontline and we’re going to win this battle. We want to win – that’s the American spirit. If you look at history, you will see how many people have come together to protect this country.”

Winning that battle means providing equipment to keep the American citizenry safe, of course, but an underlying purpose exists, as well, Chuck says.

“This is our country and we don’t want people to suffer,” he says. “These are our brothers and sisters. And it’s not just about making money, not at all. It’s about their safety, yes, but it’s also about helping the people of the United States enjoy their freedoms because you’re not free when you’re not able to leave your home. The necessary PPE allows you to go to the church of your choice, go to the stores of your choice or just go outside your home. It helps give you freedom.”

As lawmakers consider potential policies to confront existing PPE shortages, Chuck says they should look to craft domestic purchase requirements such as those in the Berry and Kissell amendments that are already in place for the military. It’s all about readiness, he says.

“We shouldn’t have to go outside this country for PPE,” he says. “It should be made here because, if another country makes it, you don’t know if it’s safe, you don’t know what kind of standards they have and you may not get it quickly.”

He encouraged members of Congress to visit textile mills with an open mind, and to not “believe everything they’ve heard” about the industry.

“They should get out and get firsthand knowledge of it before they make any decisions, and they should see how it impacts people’s lives,” he says. “If they visit my plant, their decisions won’t just be impacting the 75 people there. It’s also the people who support my plant – the people in Hillsville [Va.] who supply us yarn for twisting . It’s all of our suppliers and it’s all of our customers. And it’s the communities that these mills support.

They should look at our people’s faces. Look at the pride they have in what they do. It’s remarkable. They have pride knowing ‘I can do something. I know how to do something. I have a skill that nobody else has.’ They don’t take that lightly.”

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Barry Shore, Unifi Inc.

Barry Shore, Polyester Operations Manager, Unifi Inc.
In his four-plus decades, Barry has seen Unifi transform from solely a fiber producer into a diverse provider of numerous high-tech, sustainable products – from fiber made from water bottles under its signature REPREVE® brand to other recycled byproducts such as chip or flake that can be used in anything from apparel to food containers to geotextile liners in road construction projects.

“We’ve dedicated ourselves to being an innovator,” he says. “We are out here every day trying to innovate new yarns, new end uses, new combinations and new products that would give our customers an advantage for the consumer.”

Like many in this rural county in Western N.C., Barry grew up on a farm. And, like so many others in the area, he saw the local textile company, founded in 1971 in Greensboro, N.C., as a terrific opportunity to make a good living and learn a trade.

His brother and several aunts and cousins were working at Unifi when Barry was in high school and joined the company as a full-time doffer, removing packages of yarn from machines after they are processed. After graduation, he stayed with the company and, at age 19, joined its management training program. He took his first manager’s job over a department at age 25.


“Unifi has been nothing but great to me,” says Barry, whose daughter recently joined the company in human resources “I’ve had a lot of opportunities here. It’s allowed me to put my three daughters through college. I don’t know if I could have done that working anywhere else besides here. So for me and my family, it has provided tremendous opportunities.”

With more than 1,000 people working at the Yadkinville location, Unifi is the second largest employer in the county behind the school system. “We’re a close-knit family group here,” he says. “We pull (people) mostly from Yadkin County and surrounding counties, so it seems like everybody knows everybody.”

In early March, Unifi was asked to help supply critical components for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help fight the spread of COVID-19, and the company was quick to join the effort. As a crucial product in the supply chain, the company’s fibers and yarns were needed to produce [fabrics] for hospital gowns, face masks and medical supplies such as wound dressing and bandages. The company joined a coalition producing gowns for a large FEMA program when the vast shortage for frontline workers became apparent.

“We make POY fiber that we in turn convert to DTY (Drawn Textured Yarn). We sold both into the medical programs,” Barry says.

“Coordinating everything was a challenge, but it became easier once the [fibers] and materials used in the gowns] was settled,” he says. “There was a tremendous amount of trial work going on [with] the yarns [used to create] the gowns because it had to meet a certain standard. So we made several different yarn varieties before we finally hit the ones that worked for… the fabric they were trying to make for the gown.”

Similarly, Unifi’s fibers used in polyester yarns are now being used in face masks – some with antibacterial or water-repellent properties that are produced by numerous partners. And having its own trucking fleet has enabled the company to deliver product in a timely fashion. The entire effort makes him proud, Barry notes.

“It is an exciting thing to be involved in, knowing that there is a need and we can play a part in satisfying that need,” he says. “The industry’s collaboration has been amazing. It’s nice to see a whole industry pull together and say, ‘we can do this, and quickly.’ But that’s part of what the country is all about in times of need – pulling yourself together and making things happen.”

It’s nice to see a whole industry pull together and say, “we can do this, and quickly.” But that’s part of what the country is all about in times of need – pulling yourself together and making things happen.

Not that any of this effort during these unprecedented times surprises Barry. Time and again, he has seen his company and his industry show flexibility, he says.

“We have a lot of capability and capacity, driven by our customers and consumers,” he says.

Having worked in production and now as a manager, Barry says he has a good grasp on the operation, adding that his “people skills” have helped him tremendously along the way.

“I’ve always considered my forte to be people,” he says. “I was once an employee working on the floor, and that gives me a good perspective of the way they see things and how they react to things day to day.”

Barry has seen the industry change in many ways throughout his career, transitioning from a labor-intensive manufacturing sector to a modern, advanced industry that has become much more efficient, technologically driven, with a focus on sustainability.

But for some reason, he adds, the industry has not always received the credit it deserves for the value it brings to families, communities and the nation at large.

“There was a lot of livelihoods made off the textile industry, and it has provided a lot of things for families,” he says. “You always hope that manufacturing jobs, which are what the country needs, would be recognized. Even though equipment has changed and processes have changed, it still involves people. It may require a higher skillset person, but it’s still all about people.”

Barry says the COVID-19 crisis has opened a lot of eyes to the importance of manufacturing, especially textiles, in this country.

“When I look at the more than 1,000 people here and all the families who started here, I’m always going to stress that manufacturing here in the United States is important,” he says. “There is still a group of people today that is making their livelihood in the textile industry. There’s no place I’d rather be, and I think a lot of people would tell you the same thing. So we don’t want to lose our manufacturing jobs, and textiles is something that we can definitely keep here. We fight imports all the time and probably will continue to do so. But we’re trying our best to innovate and create things that people can’t just go and copy.”

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Stephen Comer, Glen Raven

Stephen Comer, Manufacturing Services Coordinator, Glen Raven Inc.

Stephen Comer, 31, joined Glen Raven when he was obtaining higher education degrees, never thinking his career would cross paths with the company at a later date. But after earning his undergraduate and master’s degrees in history, he ditched the idea of seeking a Ph.D. to return full time to a company and an industry in which he respected and saw a great future.

Glen Raven had been good to Stephen’s family and the small North Carolina community in which he grew up. His first stint at the company as a material handler in 2013 opened his eyes to the possibilities of a career at a global textile company. His aunt and uncle met at the company and have each worked there about two decades, and Stephen recalls he was often able to visit his aunt’s workplace when he was a pre-teen.

“I realized manufacturing in the U.S. wasn’t what it once was, but I knew that Glen Raven was strong and was continuing to grow,” he says. “And I knew the company had been around a long time, was a tight-knit, family-run company and a lot of families worked there. So based on that, I felt like it was a strong, employee-focused company to work for.”

Stephen returned to Glen Raven four years ago, starting as a lab analyst before moving into his current role as manufacturing services coordinator last year. He oversees new hire orientation and on-the-job training, in addition to managing a large portion of the safety program.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Glen Raven’s Burlington plant shifted its primary production focus from its highly advanced performance fabrics for upholstery, awnings, shade and marine applications to its proprietary synthetic fiber mix for its arc-flash, flame-retardant fabric. Apparel containing this fabric is worn by utility and electrical workers that keep essential businesses, including hospitals and healthcare facilities running.

[COVID-19] really shows the glaring need for textiles in the U.S. – not just for PPE, but also in general clothing and textiles. We use textiles in a number of different ways, and it’s important that we have fast access to those products.

“As seen during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s very important to have textiles here in the U.S., so that we have supply lines and end products available in critical times,” he says. “American quality is good quality. I know it might cost more to make things here in the U.S. but we need it to be available here, especially in times of need like today during the crisis. It really shows the glaring need for textiles in the U.S. – not just for PPE, but also in general clothing and textiles. We use textiles in a number of different ways, and it’s important that we have fast access to those products.”

The industry is proving its adaptability and importance during the pandemic – something it has shown time and again during our nation’s times of need.

“We have a really adaptable group that’s used to being flexible and responsive. That culture is already established, especially that safety culture, so I think it made it a fairly seamless process,” Stephen says.

Stephen notes he is honored to work in an industry that has answered our nation’s call and provides basic, high-quality essentials to its citizens.

“Many people don’t know a whole lot about textiles, but I’m proud to talk about what I do and how important it is,” he says. “Obviously, my career is a lot shorter than some, but I’ve seen how we’ve grown and pivoted and changed in just the short amount of time that I’ve been here, and seen how resilient the industry is.”

Domestic production of textiles is imperative, as the critical need for PPE supply exposed during the crisis. And Stephen says he hopes those decisionmakers who hold the industry’s future in their hands have taken notice.

“I guess [the industry] has not gotten the credit it deserves, based on the fact a lot of textiles moved out of the U.S.,” he says. “But with this crisis, having things made here has proven how important it is.”

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Basilio Medina, Glen Raven Inc.

Basilio Medina, Production Coordinator, Glen Raven Inc.

Textiles are in Basilio Medina’s blood – and he wouldn’t want it any other way. At 48, he has spent his entire 26-year career in the U.S. textile industry.

As a production coordinator at global fabric maker Glen Raven, Inc., based in the central North Carolina town of the same name, Basilio is responsible for cleaning and prepping equipment for color changes as high-tech yarn is processed into advanced fabric.

Looking for better opportunities, Basilio came to the U.S. from El Salvador in the 1990s and landed at Dixie Yarns in N.C., where he worked as a machine operator and technician, working there two years before that plant closed. After quickly learning and becoming efficient in advanced technologies, the shuttering company recommended he apply for a job at nearby Glen Raven, where he’s worked ever since. He served as a section leader for 15 years before being promoted to his current position.

Textiles are now in his family’s blood, too. His brother, son three sisters-in-law and a brother-in-law all work for Glen Raven.

“Working here and in textiles has been a good experience, all these 26 years,” he says. “It’s like a family. They care about their employees and they have good benefits. There are people who have worked here for over 40 years. So I think this is a very important business for the U.S. and for, especially people like me and my family.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the shortage of critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and others on the frontlines, many in the U.S. textile industry stepped up to alter operations to produce these essential goods. While others, like Basilio and his team, began producing inputs used to create protective gear.

Yarn produced at Glen Raven’s Burlington plant, for example, is sent to a nearby plant and woven into a highly technical fabric called GlenGuard®, an arc-flash, flame-retardant, lightweight fabric that protect utility and electrical workers who keep essential businesses, including hospitals and healthcare systems, running.

During the crisis, Basilio and his group were called back to work after a one-day furlough was instituted as businesses nationwide were closing. They were asked to ramp up the amount of Glen Raven’s proprietary synthetic fiber mix to boost production of the company’s GlenGuard® product. Practically overnight, the plant shifted its focus from making its signature Sunbrella® line of solution-dyed acrylic yarns used in indoor/outdoor fabrics, to creating blends needed for protective apparel fabric.

“When COVID-19 shut down the textile plant, the company quickly realized that our GlenGuard product would open a big opportunity for us to keep running and help our country,” Basilio says.

I think it’s important to make products here because it gives Americans jobs and helps take care of and feed families.

The pandemic certainly proved the importance of the textile industry to the health, well-being and safety of U.S. citizens. But its value is apparent in many other ways, including supporting American families and communities.

“I think it’s important to make products here because it gives Americans jobs and helps take care of and feed families,” Basilio says. “Textiles is a very important business for families that maybe didn’t go to college. I would rather work in textiles than work in construction or anywhere else. I’m happy doing what I do every day for all these years.”

Basilio says he can’t see himself doing anything but textiles for the rest of his career, so he stressed that lawmakers should consider the livelihoods of thousands of Americans whenever legislation comes up that involves the industry.

“To keep jobs here, especially in textiles, is very important,” he says. “If these companies disappear, where are we going to find a job? I think they [lawmakers] need to carry the load and make sure these jobs are not shipped overseas. I think they can work it out to even bring some jobs back here, and I think we will be in a better position in the future.”

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