With the creation of the first cotton textile mill around 1815 by Michael Schenck in Lincoln County, North Carolina began a long process that would see it become the center of the textile business in the U.S. by the 1920s and remain so throughout the 20th century.
The Tar Heel state’s reputation for its rich textile heritage has not abated. Just recently, two more nonwovens companies have announced new investments in North Carolina, where more than $800 million has already been invested by the industry over the last decade.
Swiss-headquartered Jacob Holm Industries and Korea’s Custom Nonwoven are the latest companies to announce projects there. More than $60 million is to be invested at the Jacob Holm U.S. headquarters in Candler where it manufactures premium spunlaced nonwoven products for the personal care, home care, hygiene, packaging and industrial markets.
Custom Nonwoven has unveiled plans to locate a new manufacturing facility in Thomasville where it will invest more than $12.8 million over the next three years. The Korean-owned company develops and manufactures polyester nonwoven pads and rolls through a thermal bonding process. The new production line slated for Thomasville will manufacture fire retardant barrier and fire retardant mattress pads for use in cushion seatings for medical, military and institutional applications. This facility will be the company’s first in North Carolina.
Both projects were made possible in part by a performance-based grant from the One North Carolina Fund of up to $100,000. The grant is contingent upon proof of job creation and receipt of a local funding match. The One NC Fund provides financial assistance, through local governments, to attract business projects that will stimulate economic activity and create new jobs in the state. Companies receive no money up front and must meet job creation and investment performance standards to qualify for grant funds.
Other nonwovens makers that have invested in the state include Brazil’s Compania Providência, which has just started production on its second spunmelt line at a plant in Statesville. A second Brazilian company, Fitesa, which acquired Fiberweb’s hygiene-related businesses at the end of 2011, is also experiencing success in the state. Other major players with North Carolina plants and activities include Avgol, Carolina Nonwovens, Freudenberg, PGI, Shalag and Spuntech.
North Carolina is also home to INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, located in Cary, as well as The Nonwovens Institute (NWI), based at the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh. The institute was established in 2007 as the world’s first accredited academic program for the interdisciplinary field of engineered fabrics.
While on a recent tour of the institute, Senator Kay Hagan announced the reintroduction by the U.S. of its Textile Enforcement and Security Act (TESA). The legislation provides U.S. Customs with expanded authority to target fraudulent textile and apparel goods coming into the U.S., while giving them additional tools and resources to increase commercial enforcement efforts and reduce fraud.
While free trade regulations and fierce price competition from global developing countries triggered a steady relocation of the textile industry from the Carolinas to overseas production as the 21st century began, all appearances indicate North Carolina remains a hotbed for investment activity among foreign nonwoven firms looking for bases of operation in the U.S.
Tim Wright, editor