Chuck Wilson, 68, has worked in textiles for 43 years – with no plans to retire from an industry he loves. The Parkdale Mills plant he manages spins yarns used in camouflage uniforms for the U.S. military; American flags draped over caskets of military veterans; and even Rawlings baseballs for Major League Baseball. Now PPE has been added to the list of inputs he oversees “It's not just about making money, not at all. These are our brothers and sisters. It's about their safety, yes, but it’s also about helping the people … enjoy their freedoms because you're not free when you're not able to leave your home.”
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 textile industry – and works for the same company as his brother, son, three sisters-in-law and brother-in-law. As a production coordinator at Glen Raven, he is responsible for cleaning and prepping equipment for color changes as high-tech yarn is processed into advanced fabric. When the pandemic hit, Basilio and his team ramped up their proprietary synthetic fiber mix to boost production of arc-flash, flame-retardant fabric to help protect the utility and electric workers that keep essential businesses, including hospitals and healthcare facilities running.
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 that he respected and saw a great future in. The company’s recent move to play a larger role to support the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic has proven to him the importance of the industry. “I've seen how [the industry has] grown and pivoted and changed in just the short amount of time … and I’ve seen how important textile manufacturing is,” says Stephen, the company’s manufacturing services coordinator.
Khurm Hussain, 41, is a second-generation textile worker. After nearly 20 years at Unifi, Inc., Khurm is now the director of flake, resin & staple fiber, and an expert in sustainability and technical innovation. Confronted with the PPE shortage spurred by COVID-19, Khurm has taken pride in the U.S. textile industry’s ability to develop lifesaving innovations and rapidly convert to PPE production: “This pandemic is an eye opener on some level that, you know, we just don't need to be working competitively. Let's work together and provide something that a win-win situation for the industry—made in the USA and life protecting.”
Mobilizing Support for the U.S. Textile Industry in the 21st Century: The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) is a unique association representing the entire spectrum of the textile industry.