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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NCTO Sends Letter to Acting OMB Director, Requesting Agency to Grant Approval for Collection of China 301 Duties on...

WASHINGTON– National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) President and CEO Kim Glas sent a letter to Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Robert Fairweather today, requesting the agency reconsider and approve a proposal to direct U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to collect Section 301 penalty duties on billions of dollars of Chinese goods currently shipped duty free under Section 321 de minimis waivers.

“There has been an exponential growth of shipments to the United States in recent years that qualify for Section 321 duty-free treatment,” Glas said in the letter. “U.S. manufacturers of textiles, apparel and other consumer goods that routinely sell for less than the $800 de minimis threshold increasingly find their markets and workforce threatened by this tariff avoidance scheme.”

The letter details how the current Section 321 provision is now being coupled with e-commerce to provide billions in duty avoidance on these imported products, including:

  • Increased import price pressure on domestic manufacturers of various types of consumer items that routinely sell for less than $800 such as – apparel, footwear, home furnishings, toys, consumer electronics, flatware, auto parts, etc.
  • An inability to properly identify and block the importation of adulterated products posing a health and safety risk to consumers.
  • An inability to properly identify and block imports of counterfeit products that violate intellectual property laws.
  • Enhanced ability of countries like China to access the U.S. market, despite their failure to provide reciprocal access to their markets and their persistent illegal and unfair trading practices.

“Imported merchandise from China that enters under a Section 321 waiver is exempt from all normal tariffs and any penalty duties assessed under the current 301 case. This unreasonable and unnecessary duty exemption severely undermines the purpose and value of the existing Section 301 determination against China as an effort to address its longstanding predatory trade practices,” Glas stated.

“The Biden administration should undertake an exhaustive review of this problem to develop the policy changes needed to mitigate the damaging impact of Section 321 waivers on U.S. workers and manufacturers,” Glas added. “In the interim, it is critical that the OMB and CBP take reasonable steps, such as denying Section 321 benefits to goods covered under the existing China 301 determination [tariffs]. Doing so would be a valuable first step toward limiting the dangerous and growing exploitation of this tariff waiver mechanism.”

See the full letter 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 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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Kristi Ellis

Vice President, Communications

National Council of Textile Organizations

kellis@ncto.org  |  202.684.3091

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Biden Administration Awards 2 Contracts for more than 17 Million American-Made Face Masks to NCTO’s Parkdale Mills, Ferrara Manufacturing...

Press Statement

WASHINGTON, DC—The Biden Administration has awarded two contracts to National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) members Parkdale Mills and Ferrara Manufacturing Inc., following through on the President’s pledge to procure millions of fully Made in America face masks for community health centers, food pantries and soup kitchens across the country.  A third contract is expected to be awarded to a small business early next week.

North Carolina headquartered Parkdale Mills, the nation’s largest cotton yarn spinner, has partnered with Ferrara Manufacturing, a tailored clothing company based in New York City’s garment center whose workforce is union represented by Workers United/SEIU, to manufacture over 17 million reusable masks.

The government said it could purchase up to a maximum of 22.2 million masks under the two contracts announced today. The masks will be Berry compliant and thus 100% U.S.-made.

Ferrara Manufacturing and Parkdale Mills will contract with additional U.S. companies across the manufacturing supply chain, employing nearly 5,000 American workers as a result of these awards.  Parkdale will be utilizing yarn from their facilities in NC, VA, and GA and Ferrara will deploy their cut and sew operations in New York City.  Additional suppliers include:

“The entire Parkdale team wants to thank President Biden and his administration for this opportunity to make reusable cotton face masks for millions of Americans,” said Davis Warlick of Parkdale Mills. “By procuring 100% American-made masks, we are putting thousands of workers across the United States to work to help our most vulnerable communities.  We are excited to partner with Ferrara Manufacturing and are proud of our supply chain partners and their hard work to make this product crafted with pride in the United States.”

Gabrielle Ferrara, Chief Operating Officer and owner, of Ferrara Manufacturing: “This is another amazing moment for our industry to come together to produce lifesaving PPE for people who need it most. Ferrara is proud to partner with Parkdale Mills and we want to thank the administration for supporting our workforce, who have sacrificed so much during the pandemic to answer the call of the nation to produce million masks. We also greatly appreciate the strong support and partnership of Workers United/SEIU to help amplify the needs to bolster this critical supply chain.  We are honored to have this opportunity.”

The U.S. textile industry has produced over a billion lifesaving PPE and other medical products over the last year.  Since the spring of 2020, both Ferrara and Parkdale have retooled their production chains to help produce millions of masks and gowns to help workers on the frontlines. 

Kim Glas, President and CEO of NCTO: “We want to sincerely thank President Biden for his leadership and support of American manufacturing workers with this purchase. We appreciate the administration’s commitment to purchase fully made in America masks and we believe this is a significant opportunity to continue to showcase our incredible domestic textile industry and all of its capabilities.  We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to onshore these critical supply chains long-term and we look forward to working with the administration and Congress to advance long-term policies to bolster this critical production capacity here in the United States.”

See press release from Workers United, an affiliate of SEIU, 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 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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Kristi Ellis

Vice President, Communications

National Council of Textile Organizations

kellis@ncto.org  |  202.684.3091

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NCTO Welcomes Expected Nomination of Katherine Tai as new U.S. Trade Representative

WASHINGTON, D.C. —National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) President and CEO Kim Glas, representing the full spectrum of U.S. textiles from fiber through finished sewn products, issued a statement today welcoming the reported selection of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Chief Trade Counsel, Katherine Tai, as the next U.S. Trade Representative.

“We applaud President-elect Joe Biden’s expected nomination of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Chief Trade Counsel, Katherine Tai, as the next U.S. Trade Representative. This selection is welcome news to the U.S. textile industry, which has worked closely with Katherine on several critical trade issues over the years.  She is an exceptional candidate to serve as the next USTR, having dedicated her career to enforcing our trade laws, and, most recently, serving as a key lead negotiator in the House securing key improvements in the USMCA agreement.  

She will be a powerful and thoughtful advocate on behalf of American workers and our environment.  The U.S. textile industry looks forward to working with her on our top trade priorities.”

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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 585,240 in 2019.
  • The value of shipments for U.S. textiles and apparel was $75.8 billion in 2019.
  • U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel were $29.1 billion in 2019.
  • Capital expenditures for textile and apparel production totaled $2.5 billion in 2018, the last year for which data is available.

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CONTACT:

Kristi Ellis

Vice President, Communications

National Council of Textile Organizations

kellis@ncto.org  |  202.684.3091

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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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Rhina Quintanilla, Shawmut Corp.

Rhina Quintanilla, Vision Technician, Shawmut Corp.

Rhina Quintanilla, 40, has been working in the U.S. textile industry for half of her life.

Over the past 20 years she has worked her way up the ladder to her current position as a Vision Technician at Shawmut Corp. In the quality control department, Rhina uses Shelton automated inspection technology to photograph fabric on the production line to assess its quality.

A mother of two and an immigrant from El Salvador, Rhina has weathered many ups and downs in her life, but the jobs she has held in textile factories over those years have given her not only a means to make a living but also new skills and training on advanced technologies that help the industry innovate and compete in a global world.

Rhina, along with tens of thousands of textile workers, has helped drive the U.S. industry through one of its darkest chapters in history—the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have a sister that works in the hospital, and she tells me about how they didn’t have a lot of protective equipment; but now it’s coming in, and they’re glad that’s being produced and given to them. She’s a phlebotomist here in Burlington [N.C.]. So to me, it’s personal,” Rhina says.

She has been confronted with many challenges during the health crisis, including a weeklong furlough, before being called back in to ramp up production on fabrics for medical gowns.

“Personally, we had to change our mindset and the way we were used to doing things to accommodate in a [fast] pace producing new products,” she says.

Shawmut traditionally produces headliner composites, technical textiles and lamination, including in the automotive division of Shawmut where Rhina works.

Being part of a larger effort by the industry to retool production lines and pivot to PPE production to address the severe shortage of critical PPE items like gowns, face masks, and isolation curtains has been rewarding for Rhina.

“We were given a lot of good tools and already had some ourselves to make that product work as good as it’s working now. And it means that the people who need it are getting it and having it when they need it,” she says.

The textile industry runs through Rhina’s family and through her own personal story with her husband.

“I did not go to school for textiles; but because those were the jobs that were available as I was reaching the age of adulthood, that’s what was around, textiles. And I just feel like I’ve been blessed to have been given the opportunity with Shawmut to grow and learn a lot more about textiles, different types of fabrics.” Rhina adds.

Her father worked at Copland Fabrics, also based in Burlington, North Carolina, for 15 years, and Rhina says she met her husband, Juan, in Burlington as well.

Juan, who moved to North Carolina from El Salvador 13 years ago, also has roots in the U.S. textile industry, first working for Cortina Fabrics and now working at the same company—Shawmut—as Rhina.

If [we] produce material here, that’s helping people all across the United States. If there’s more places that would do this, they could, in cases like this pandemic, have faster access to the materials that they need.

Rhina sees her role in making PPE and automotive products in America in this way:

“I feel that if [we] produce material here, that’s helping people all across the United States. If there’s more places that would do this, they could, in cases like this pandemic, have faster access to the materials that they need.”

Domestic production is important because it provides “security, knowing that we’re doing something good for many people. It’s very family-like here. They always let us know what’s going on and it feels very family oriented,” she says.

As lawmakers on Capitol Hill introduce bills to expand domestic PPE production; reduce our country’s overreliance on foreign-made goods, particularly from China; and solidify production in the U.S., it is people like Rhina Quintanilla who are working every day to make medical-related textiles to help frontline workers.

Rhina says she has learned that textiles is a “difficult business that can disappear quickly.”

“And from seeing other places, jobs can just kind of vanish or be sent overseas,” she adds.

That is why it is important to her during the pandemic in particular to show members of Congress and the public how flexible, efficient and important the industry is to not only PPE production but a whole host of other critical textiles, including the automotive business.

She also says domestic production of PPE is critical to keep the supply chain prepared for the future.

“We live in a big country where a lot of this stuff is needed and used, and to have it produced here is much needed,” she says.

Her message to Capitol Hill is simple and direct:

“What we do here right now is being produced here, and I feel it’s important because like I said, for the gown business, we have it, it’s ready and it’s accessible faster than having to wait for it to get here.”

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Khurm Hussain, Unifi Inc.

Khurm Hussain, Director of Flake, Resin & Staple Fiber, Unifi, Inc.

Khurm Hussain, 41, is a second-generation textile worker and immigrant from Pakistan. He earned his Textile Engineering degree from Thomas Jefferson University and has worked with Greensboro, NC-based Unifi, Inc. for the past 20 years.

He began his career at Unifi as a management trainee— moving from plant to plant, department to department, learning technical processes like spinning, texturizing, loading, creeling, putting up ends and solution-dyeing color development. At the same time, he increased his knowledge of design and product development working at various Unifi facilities throughout North Carolina and abroad.

In 2010, Khurm was assigned to Unifi’s REPREVE® Recycling Center, through which the company developed and collaborated with other organizations for the production of REPREVE® recycled materials made from post-consumer bottle and pre-consumer waste.

In the years since, Khurm has become an important ambassador for the REPREVE® brand, which he believes offers value-added product differentiated from low-cost alternatives produced by foreign competitors.

Committed to advancing sustainability and innovation in the domestic textile industry, Khurm says: “[REPREVE is] based on sustainability. We have a razor-sharp focus. We can add additional technologies on a sustainable platform and have REPREVE PLUS in our product portfolio.

Unifi’s REPREVE® brand, launched in 2007, has transformed more than 20 billion plastic bottles into recycled fiber for apparel, shoes, home-textiles and recycled rPET for nonwoven, consumer packaging goods, thermoform containers for many of the leading brands.

Outside of the mill, Khurm is a family man who strives to give back to his community. He and his wife of 16 years have three kids—two daughters, eleven and seven years old, and a son, five. Unlike Khurm, who was born in Northern Ireland, each of his children were born in Winston-Salem, where he’s proud to have established his family.

He attributes the supportive, close-knit culture at Unifi as a source of support in making his home in the U.S.: “In my 20 years, I think I’ve been fortunate that Unifi challenged me and gave me new opportunities to explore. I feel like it’s a part of my extended family. They’re always there to help you. They helped with accommodation, logistics and even applied for my American citizenship. They want you to stick around for a long time and we are doing the same for the younger talented folks that are coming into the profession.”

Khurm’s wife was also part of the industry. She left Pakistan for the U.S. when they got married and she earned an accounting degree from Salem College. Shortly after she worked for Hanesbrands until the Sara Lee spin off. Together, Khurm and his wife are dedicated to raising their kids and bettering their neighborhood community: “We’ve made good friends outside of work. I spend more time at Unifi, but [in] the community at large I’ve tried to get involved as much as I can.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned new sustainability initiatives in the form of reusable PPE, such as gowns, wipes and facemasks. For Khurm, such opportunities provide a sense of optimism and innovation to his work. “We are innovative … and getting more innovative … With mask breathability, we’re applying cross-sectional technology, so it channels some of the moisture away and provides adequate airflow. And then you can wash it, reuse it, over and over again… Now, everywhere you go, every airplane, every ball game, you’re going to be using a mask to reduce the spread of the virus. The question is, do you want to use a single use mask that you’re going to throw away, or do you want a reusable product? No matter which mask you choose, why could it not be made out of sustainable materials?”

We hear from brands who want to switch their supply chain. We have the automation, innovation and the people to compete and provide something better for the consumer.

A focus on sustainability carries additional benefits, like social responsibility and a stronger supply chain with regional trading partners. However, to realize some of these benefits, Khurm knows there’s still work to be done. In regard to reshoring production and developing critical supply chains, Khurm states, “I think when we come together as an industry to make gowns or masks or any other protective wear, we have enough capacity in the region. We hear from brands who want to switch their supply chain. We have the automation, innovation and the people to compete and provide something better for the consumer.”

A focus on sustainability carries additional benefits, like social responsibility and a stronger supply chain with regional trading partners. However, to realize some of these benefits, Khurm knows there’s still work to be done. In regard to reshoring production and developing critical supply chains, Khurm states, “I think when we come together as an industry to make gowns or masks or any other protective wear, we have enough capacity in the region. We hear from brands who want to switch their supply chain. We have the automation, innovation and the people to compete and provide something better for the consumer.”

To that end, Khurm sees the U.S. textile industry’s shift to PPE production as a prime opportunity for achieving these goals, “I think with coming together on the PPE, they are recognizing some of what we can do… I would love for them to enforce that all PPE should be made in the region, so in the case that we have anymore outbreaks, we are equipped… We need [more support] to have more stabilization in the region. The brands would love to come back to this region. If Capitol Hill would look into it, then there’ll be more capital invested in the region.”

Khurm’s passion for his work is also a source of personal fulfilment that has allowed him to develop deep interpersonal connections and take part in something larger than himself: “I’m a second-generation textile guy. My dad has been in the textile industry for the last 40 years. I saw he has a comfortable life. And I was like, I want to follow that path. I learned a lot from my dad. Now, we can talk the same—denier, filament, barre. Now we’re talking about PPE.”

“This pandemic is an eye opener on many levels. We just don’t need to be working competitively. Let’s work together and provide something that’s a win-win situation for the industry—made in the USA and protect lives.”

To that end, Khurm sees the U.S. textile industry’s shift to PPE production as a prime opportunity for achieving these goals, “I think with coming together on the PPE, they are recognizing some of what we can do… I would love for them to enforce that all PPE should be made in the region, so in the case that we have anymore outbreaks, we are equipped … We need [more support] to have more stabilization in the region. The brands would love to come back to this region. If Capitol Hill would look into it, then there’ll be more capital invested in the region.”

Khurm’s passion for his work is also a source of personal fulfilment that has allowed him to develop deep interpersonal connections and take part in something larger than himself: “I’m a second-generation textile guy. My dad has been in the textile industry for the last 40 years. I saw he has a comfortable life. And I was like, I want to follow that path. I learned a lot from my dad. Now, we can talk the same—denier, filament, barre. Now we’re talking about PPE.”

“This pandemic is an eye opener on many levels. We just don’t need to be working competitively. Let’s work together and provide something that’s a win-win situation for the industry—made in the USA and protecting lives.”

Contact your lawmakers

Send a letter in support of American PPE production

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