By Jason O'Boyd, Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 2, 2013 —
The United States textile industry has experienced a resurgence over the past several years. Nowhere is that more evident than at a place such as Tuscarora Yarns, Inc. in Oakboro.
But in order to continue that success, businesses such as Tuscarora must hope the Obama Administration’s negotiations toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) follow the same key provisions that have been in place to protect U.S. textiles for the past 30 years. So Tuscarora Yarns wanted to make sure it’s doing its part to promote the TPP process and alert area politicians and representatives of what’s going on both inside the facility and out.
A luncheon was hosted for employees and area representatives on Tuesday. In attendance were County Manager Andy Lucas, Stanly County Economic Development Director Paul Stratos, Oakboro Mayor Danny Long and Christ Carter, district director for U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson.
“This county ... we are not going to let anything sleep, we’re not going to let anything slip by us. We are concerned not with just the jobs but when you talk about jobs, you talk about people’s lives. I think we’ve been asleep too long, and it’s time we speak up and do whatever we can,” Long said.
“With the petitions, that’s the biggest thing we can do is sign the petitions, contact Congressman Hudson’s office and whoever we have to to see what’s going on and keep abreast of this so we can move forward and see how strong we need to move forward.
“It impresses me with the response we’ve had from Congressman Hudson's office, the county being here shows their support and that we are concerned about jobs in Stanly County, especially with the devastation that’s happened over the last week (with the storm damage). We are concerned about people and their lives. We are not just sitting around.”
Plant Manager Darrell Morton gave the representatives a tour of the facility where they got the chance to see what goes on at Tuscarora.
The tour broke down the process of taking the cotton and other fabrics the facility receives and how it’s turned into yarn and other elements for making things such as clothes, jeans, towels and other items.
“People don’t understand the technology and complexity it takes to make a piece of string to make the cloth to make the garments that you wear. Companies have to constantly update their machinery, software and all. It’s not like it was in the early ’50s and ’60s where it was pretty much your average person could get a job in the textile market,” said Morton, who has been with Tuscarora Yarns since 1974.
“It has progressed like every market in that you’ve got to have a little bit of computer skills, a little bit of knowledge of machinery just to operate this machinery. It’s a whole lot different than it used to be.”
Part of the tour allowed individuals to sign a large petition board that will be sent to Hudson. The petition is part of StopExportingOurAmericanJobs.com, a website that promotes the textile industry and provides information on the current TPP process.
Pamela Wofford, human resources manager at Tuscarora, sent an email to area representatives inviting them to the event. The plant is working with its sister locations in Mt. Pleasant, China Grove and Clover, S.C. to create awareness of the TPP and how it could impact jobs in the textile industry in a good or bad way, depending on how the process unfolds.
In her email, she encouraged representatives to either attend the event or sign the petition supporting the movement. The main argument being pushed is for a “yarn-forward” approach to be taken, where production steps such as yarn spinning and fabric formation that are done at textile plants such as Tuscarora, actually continue to take place in the TPP region. The region covers 12 Asian, North American and South American countries. That will ensure, as Wofford said in her letter, “that countries like China don’t supply textile components to Vietnam for simple assembly of products that are then shipped duty-free to the U.S. In short, China would gain another lucrative and damaging back-door entry in the U.S. market.”
The StopExportingOur AmericanJobs.com site said more than 522,000 textile and related jobs in the U.S. could be lost if this provision isn’t protected. That would place a huge hit on an industry that, according to the site, had a record-high $23 billion in exports in 2012. That makes the U.S. the third largest exporter of textile products in the world.
“What I’ve learned from here is obviously we want to do everything we can to create an environment where they (Tuscarora) prosper in Stanly County and the state of North Carolina. Having this tour and being educated about what’s going on here, their supply chain, it’s helpful to us as we are making policies that could potentially impact them in the future,” Lucas said.
“We are just trying to learn more about this Trans-Pacific Partnership and gather as much information as we can so we are doing the things that may impact them and their business moving forward.”
Carter said Hudson is a big supporter of the textile industry and is aware of what’s going on with the TPP and how it could affect jobs in the 8th District along with other places that house textile businesses.
“Facilities like Tuscarora are the heart and soul of the 8th District. All 12 counties that make up our district have manufacturing and textile facilities just like this that are really the life-blood of our district,” Carter said.
“Folks in communities like Oakboro, China Grove and Mt. Pleasant depend on this industry for jobs, for investment in the community and have depended on it for decades. If Congressman Hudson can do everything he can to not only preserve the jobs we have but to create an environment where we can expand businesses like Tuscarora and bring back manufacturing to the 8th District, that’s what he’s going to fully support.”
Morton, who routinely gives tours at the facility, believes the push to create more awareness of the TPP and provide further information to the people who came Tuesday can only be a good thing in the long run.
“Tuscarora Yarns in itself is one of the most unique companies there is because of what we do. When people think of textiles, normally they think of natural yarn. But we do a mix of every possible fiber you can think of,” Morton said.
“We are like mixing paint. What you see is the color you get. You really don’t have to do any dying but customers have taken our product and gone even further than we could have imagined.
“The market we’re in is pretty unique, and I think the people that were here today have a true respect of what we do at this plant, the complexity, the job and how everybody works hard to try and be unique in the market. It’s something that’s not easily duplicated because if it can be duplicated, it will be duplicated overseas.”
Tuscarora employs about 550 individuals throughout the company.
To submit story ideas to Jason, call (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email jason@ stanlynewspress.com.