Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi visits Shawmut Corporation; Participates in New England Textile Industry Roundtable

WASHINGTON – Shawmut Corporation hosted Deputy United States Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi today at the company’s headquarters and state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in West Bridgewater, Mass., as part of the ambassador’s inaugural visit to textile manufacturing facilities in the New England area.

Ambassador Bianchi’s visit comes at a pivotal time for the U.S. textile supply chain, which produced $64 billion in output in 2020 and employed nearly 530,000 workers. Shawmut Corporation is part of the broader U.S. textile industry that has been at the forefront of a domestic production chain that has collectively manufactured over one billion personal protective equipment (PPE) items during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ambassador’s visit to Shawmut included a tour of the company’s manufacturing facility and a roundtable discussion highlighting the critical need for policies supporting a domestic supply chain and the innovative nature of the modern textile industry and its important contribution to the U.S. economy. Shawmut, a fourth-generation, family-run global advanced materials and textile manufacturer, is a global leader in automotive textile composites, innovative technical fabrics and custom laminating services, employing more than 700 employees worldwide with 10 global manufacturing plants and seven commercial offices. The company has also contributed greatly to U.S. PPE efforts, investing $20 million in a new state-of-the-art facility, which can produce up to 180 million NIOSH-approved N95 respirators and other PPE annually and created hundreds of new local jobs.

“We are honored to have hosted Ambassador Bianchi at our West Bridgewater facility on her first domestic industry trade visit,” said Shawmut CEO James Wyner. “The opportunity to discuss with the USTR office the impact of our nation’s global trade policies on the valuable and passionate work our U.S. manufacturing teams provide to their local communities, U.S.-based trade partners and the nation is critical to supporting a robust U.S. supply chain. We are thankful for Ambassador Bianchi’s commitment to understanding the challenges we face on a global scale by her visit and dialogue here today.”

Ambassador Bianchi said, “Today’s tour of Shawmut’s manufacturing facilities and the roundtable discussion with textile industry executives was an invaluable opportunity for me to see innovative U.S. textile manufacturing first-hand, to learn more about the challenges that U.S. textile manufacturing faces, and to explore ways in which the Administration and industry can cooperate to support a worker-centric trade policy.”

During the visit, U.S. textile executives spanning the fiber, yarn, fabric, and finished product textile and apparel industries participated in a roundtable with the ambassador at which they discussed the innovative achievements and competitiveness of the domestic industry and outlined priority issues in Washington, such as the importance of Buy American and Berry Amendment government procurement policies, maintaining strong rules of origins in free trade agreements and the need to address larger systemic trade issues with China.

National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) President and CEO Kim Glas said, “We deeply appreciate Ambassador Bianchi’s inaugural visit to New England to meet with U.S. textile executives and engage in substantive discussions centered around policy opportunities that help bolster U.S. manufacturing and the challenges confronting our industry. The U.S. textile industry is an extremely diverse, technically advanced and highly innovative industry that provides much-needed jobs in rural areas across the country. Sound trade policies and enforcement are essential to this manufacturing sector and its workforce.”

Glas continued: “We are grateful to Ambassador Bianchi and the entire U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office, led by Ambassador Katherine Tai, for reaffirming its support of CAFTA-DR rules and acknowledging the importance of the co-production chain with our Western Hemisphere trade partners. We look forward to working closely with Ambassador Bianchi and the USTR office to advance policies that bolster domestic production by expanding buy American policies and providing incentives for onshoring and nearshoring production, while addressing illegal trade practices that undermine our industry’s competitiveness head on.”

About Shawmut Corporation

Founded in 1916, Shawmut Corporation is a fourth-generation, family-run, global company with locations in North America, Europe, and Asia. Shawmut uses materials innovation to improve people’s lives, employing expertise in fabric formation, coating and laminating to deliver high performance materials and components to the global Automotive, Health & Safety, Military & Protective, and Custom Laminating Solutions markets, and is the largest independent laminator in the U.S. for technical fabrics. Shawmut Corporation is based in West Bridgewater, Mass., and can be found online on LinkedInFacebook and, Instagram. To learn more, visit


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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Press Contacts:


Kristi Ellis

(202) 281-9305

Shawmut Corp.

Jon Platz


NCTO Welcomes Appointment of Jennifer Knight as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods and Materials at the U.S. Department of Commerce

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 appointment of Jennifer Knight as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods and Materials at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Knight will oversee the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA), the Office of Materials Industries and the Office of Consumer Goods within the International Trade Administration’s Industry and Analysis unit.

Statement from NCTO President and CEO Kim Glas:

We applaud the Biden administration for appointing Jennifer Knight to serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods and Materials.

Jennifer’s extensive and successful career in U.S. textile manufacturing, as well as her experience in setting up international operations in regions such as Central America, is an enormous asset as she takes on this critical role.

As onshoring and nearshoring efforts gain momentum amidst the global supply chain crisis, Jennifer’s appointment could not have come at a more pivotal time. We couldn’t be more delighted with her appointment and strong familiarity with our sector and beyond.  Jennifer will be a strong advocate for American workers and industries, and we look forward to working with her on the U.S. textile industry’s top priorities in the months and years ahead.


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.

Werner International Report Highlights Benefits of U.S.-CAFTA-DR Agreement and Devastating Impact of Weakening Agreement’s Rules

The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) commissioned a critical report by Werner International examining the valuable economic and societal impact of the U.S.-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR, which has spawned an integrated co-production chain in the apparel, textile and cotton industries supporting more than 1 million jobs and facilitating $12.5 billion in two-way trade.

The report was released as part of a public relations and Hill and administration advocacy campaign on January 26,  supported by the co-chairs of the House Textile Caucus—Congressmen Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ).

In addition to the Werner report’s highlights of the resilient supply chain between the U.S. and CAFTA-DR region, the study also provides data-driven evidence of the adverse impact of proposals aimed at weakening the agreement’s carefully negotiated and longstanding textile rules of origin. Proposals by certain retailers and apparel brands to dismantle CAFTA-DR’s rules would have a devastating effect on the collective industries in the region and U.S. and result in massive job, investment and export losses, the report finds.

The Werner report comes at a pivotal time, as Xinjiang’s illegal use of forced labor is tainting imported consumer products and the global shipping crisis is diverting supply chains away from China.

NCTO will continue to do substantial outreach to ensure key stakeholders understand the severe impacts this would have across the whole industry.  Staff will also engage with efforts on the Hill to create incentives to help onshore and nearshore more textile and apparel production.

Lastly, the study provides recommendations to the Biden administration, which is currently conducting a comprehensive review of root causes of migration issues associated with three Northern Triangle countries within the CAFTA-DR region.

Key Findings from Werner report:

Adverse consequences to adding flexibilities to/weakening the yarn forward rule:

  • Destroys U.S. and Western Hemisphere textile employment, with a total projected loss of more than 307,000 U.S. textile and cotton farming jobs and a loss of 250,000 jobs in Central America’s primary textile industry.
  • Devastates U.S. cotton farmers, currently employing 115,000 people in 18 states. Projected sales drop of 30% for U.S. and Western Hemisphere cotton growers.
  • Provides direct and indirect backdoor access to Chinese textile inputs, further perpetuating Xinjiang forced labor.
  • Chills future investment and destabilizes current investment in region. Over $1 billion in capital investments have been made in CAFTA-DR countries since 2005, which have helped create a vertical regional production chain. Weakened rules place major future and long-term U.S. investments at risk.
  • Severely undermines defense procurement under the Berry Amendment and the domestic warm industrial base supplying mission critical items to U.S. armed forces. More than two-thirds of the U.S. textile and apparel industry would be wiped out, destabilizing the domestic textile military industrial base and its ability to meet surge production in times of military mobilization.
  • Cripples efforts to construct a viable domestic/nearshoring supply chain for personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Exacerbates the flow of immigration, undermining the administration’s intended goal of spurring economic development in the region to address the root causes of outward migration.
  • Exponentially increases greenhouse carbon emissions through transpacific shipping and Asian coal-fired energy.

Proactive steps to help improve the competitive position of CAFTA-DR region:

  • Better coordination among lending agencies of the federal government, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, Inter-American Development Bank, and Export-Import Bank, to ensure targeted, strategic investment in this sector and competitive low or zero interest financing and loan guarantees.
  • Support for a comprehensive infrastructure plan with targeted, high-impact investments and competitive loans to upgrade regional power grids, roads, and local ports would pay immediate dividends.
  • Provide incentives to the Western Hemisphere co-production chain for carbon emission reductions and sustainable products.
  • Ensure trade stability in the region by maintaining maximum pressure on China, including enforcing the U.S. ban on cotton and cotton products made with forced labor in Xinjiang.
  • Refrain from changing cumulation and short supply process, which would lead to a surge of third-country yarns and fabrics and displace hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region and U.S.
  • Oppose granting duty-free access and other benefits through an expansion of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program to apparel and textiles and negotiating free trade agreements with major Asian suppliers.
  • Close the de minimis loophole for imports from China that allow goods valued at $800 or less to enter duty free if imported by one person on one day.

Aurora Specialty Textiles Group in Expansion Mode in Industrial Textiles

Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, Inc., a global leader in coating, dyeing and finishing of woven, non-woven and knit fabrics, has proven that resilience and an innovative spirit can propel a company to new heights, even during one of the most challenging times in the industry’s history.

Aurora was originally founded as a cloth prep facility in Aurora, Illinois in 1883. The company has since evolved and flourished as a domestic manufacturer, transitioning first into textile dyeing and finishing in the 1920s, then into textile coating capabilities in the 1950s.

In 1977, Aurora was purchased by Meridian Industries, Inc., a privately owned manufacturing holding company comprised of five operating entities, including Majilite, Meridian Specialty Yarn Group, Inc., Kleen Test Products Corporation, and Kent Elastomer Products Inc.

The company continued to expand through the following decades and in 2015 invested in a new state-of-the-art, wide-width coating and finishing line and a new facility in Yorkville, Illinois that dramatically expanded their ability to serve customers and new markets.

Today, Aurora offers a complete portfolio of products, including digitally-printable textiles, specialty home products, tape-backing products and technical textiles for a wide variety of industries.

Aurora President Marcia Ayala, who joined Aurora in 2006 and was named president in 2019, is leading the company on a rebranding drive, while also navigating myriad challenges, from rising raw material prices and transportation costs to a global supply chain crisis.

“The company has rebranded itself and really expanded and grown from the point of view of its manufacturing capabilities,” Ayala said.

As part of the rebranding effort, Aurora has engaged heavily on social media channel LinkedIn, posting company news and updates weekly. In addition, Aurora is currently in the process of upgrading its website.

“It has made a difference,” Ayala noted.  “We do see that we are getting more inquiries as a result of our presence and engagement on LinkedIn.”

These initiatives have helped Aurora maintain and grow business in an uneven economy roiled by the COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted the entire U.S. manufacturing and retail sectors.

Aurora’s product offerings and services are extensive.

The company’s products cover a wide range of applications, from pressure sensitive tapes with a fabric backing, like gaffer’s and athletic tapes, to digitally printable textile applications such as canvases, banners and window displays and wall coverings. Other applications include power transmission belting, military, abrasives, healthcare and safety, and protective outdoor coverings.

In addition, Aurora has a range of textile finishing capabilities including fabric preparations such as bleaching, scouring, singeing and brushing/vacuuming; dyeing capabilities; pad applications to apply treatments such as fire retardant, water-repellent and anti-microbial; coating capabilities for a range of water-based coatings; and calendering, sanding and converting services.


Navigating the Pandemic, Rising Raw Material Costs and a Global Supply Chain Crisis

“Like many businesses, when the pandemic first hit, our business slowed considerably and was down in 2020,” Ayala said. “While we hunkered down, we continued to manufacture throughout the pandemic. We never shut down.”

Ayala said Aurora had some businesses that were resilient and remained consistent throughout the pandemic, though areas such as athletic tape and gaffer’s tape were impacted as sporting events and entertainment shut down at the height of the pandemic in 2020.

Demand and business rebounded in 2021, but with it came a whole new set of challenges triggered by a global supply chain crisis that has resulted in skyrocketing costs for freight, cargo, raw materials and chemicals.

“Transportation costs alone have doubled and tripled depending on where you are shipping it from,” Ayala said. “The challenge now is mitigating price increases as much as we can and meeting customer demand.”

“We have had to change the way we do business because of rising prices and longer lead times for raw materials. We implemented a longer time frame for forecasting and customer product demands, we are qualifying secondary suppliers, and we are requoting prices frequently due to the volatile and increasing prices of raw materials,” she added. “In some cases, we have been told from our suppliers that prices are only good for 24 hours. It has been going on for the past year and I don’t see any end in sight in the near future.”

But one challenge Aurora has managed to dodge is the labor shortage crisis that has plagued broad swaths of the manufacturing and retail sectors. Aurora employs 73 people and operates in a 120,000 square-foot facility.

“We have had very little turnover, across the board. Most of the turnover has been retirements.  I think people enjoy working here and we have a very good culture focused on employee engagement, continuous improvement and input on ideas,” Ayala noted.


Emerging Markets

Looking ahead, Aurora hopes to expand its offerings to the military market: “We are looking at how we can act as a subcontractor to companies that need fabric finishing or coatings, like durable water repellants or anti-microbial finishes. This is a business that we have already grown, and we are looking to expand it,” she said.

She said government procurement business under the Berry amendment is extremely important and is a topic that will be highlighted on Aurora’s newly designed website.

“Our sweet spot is Berry compliant business where we offer our coatings, bleaching, and finishing services to companies that already have fabric procured, and we can add value,” Ayala said.

“Another area Aurora is exploring, one that would fit well with its core competencies, is outdoor protective fabrics for end products like boat covers and canopies, where it can offer a wide range of polyurethane coatings or water resistance coatings,” she added.



Aurora, a Meridian Industries, Inc. company, is ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified, and an industry leader in sustainable manufacturing practices.

The company moved into its state-of-the-art facility in 2015 and has made a significant investment on sustainability upgrades at its plant in Yorkville.

Among the upgrades to Aurora’s new facility, the natural gas and electricity components were designed to significantly reduce its manufacturing carbon footprint.

The move from its original plant in Aurora to the new plant in Yorkville led to a reduction in natural gas and electricity consumption of 4,134 metric tons of CO2. That is the equivalent of 465,178 gallons of gasoline per year or 4,523,015 pounds of coal burned, according to the company.

Over $1 million was invested in new equipment alone, including Variable Speed Drives to adjust motor speed to match demand (to prevent operating equipment running at constant full speeds), new higher efficiency boilers powered by gas, and a Building Automation System (BAS) that allows the company to schedule equipment to turn on and off automatically through a central computer, which helps reduce energy consumption.

As members of the Valley Industrial Association (VIA), which serves manufacturers throughout Northern Illinois, Aurora said it has begun sharing its sustainability management ideas with other manufacturing operations in the region and is helping them to identify ways to save energy and water resources and also reduce waste.

Aurora is a finalist in all six VIA benchmark categories, including innovation, culture, operations, safety, social responsibility and workforce development. The VIA’s “Spark Awards” will be held on April 27.



 Ayala said she is very supportive of onshoring more weaving and manufacturing.

“It has been an advantage for us to be a domestic manufacturer, because of the global supply chain crisis and the issues with imported products over the past two years,” she noted. “People are starting to see more value in having domestic suppliers because of reliability, a shorter supply chain and lower costs from a transportation perspective.”

Ayala said her customers also find value in promoting products that they can label as manufactured in the U.S.

She said free trade agreements, such as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) have been beneficial and led to new exports to Canada, though over 90 percent of Aurora’s products and services are consumed domestically.

“Free trade agreements spur more domestic production of fabrics and yarns,” Ayala said.

Aurora hosted U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) on a tour of its facility and a roundtable discussion featuring women-led manufacturing firms and union representatives in late August last year. The event was hosted by Ayala and Bruce Pindyck, chairman and CEO of Meridian Industries, Aurora’s parent company.

The visit came at a critical time as Congress was debating the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The bill, which Congress ultimately passed, includes support across Illinois communities for public transit, improvements to roads and bridges, and improved passenger and freight rail and programs.

“The fact that Ambassador Tai was willing to visit small manufacturing companies like ours and talk to us about what is important to us was impressive,” Ayala said.

“When we went on the plant tour, she was interested in our manufacturing capabilities and asked questions about what was impacting our business and how trade policy impacts our business.”

“I asked her if it was typical for a U.S. trade representative to come on a tour of a small company and talk trade policy and she said it was her own innovation and practice—to meet with manufacturers and workers around the country—instead of putting out trade policies without asking industry first how it would impact us,” Ayala said. “That made such an impression.”


NCTO Welcomes House Passage of America COMPETES Act; Helps Close De Minimis Loophole

WASHINGTON—The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), representing the full spectrum of U.S. textiles from fiber through finished sewn products, issued a statement today welcoming House passage of the America COMPETES Act, a legislative package that will help close the de minimis loophole on duty-free imports from China and also renew the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB), both important provisions to U.S. textile manufacturers.

“We commend the House for passing this sweeping legislation, which contains several critical trade provisions beneficial to American manufacturers,” said NCTO President and CEO Kim Glas. “This legislation contains a provision that would effectively prohibit China from exploiting the Section 321 de minimis mechanism in U.S. trade law, a win for U.S. textile producers and workers.”

“We sincerely thank Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) for working diligently to include and preserve his Import Security Fairness Act in the underlying U.S. competitiveness bill. This bill would help close the de minimis loophole, which allows imports valued under $800 to come into the United States without paying duties and taxes, bypassing inspections by U.S. Customs and providing a backdoor to Chinese goods produced with forced labor. The loophole has not only fueled the rise of imports from foreign e-commerce companies and mass distributors, but it has also put our domestic manufacturers and workers at a competitive disadvantage.”

Another important provision in the legislation renews the MTB for two years, which would extend limited tariff relief on a range of manufacturing inputs used by U.S. textile producers.

In closing, NCTO’s Glas stated: “NCTO worked closely with our allies in the House on these provisions in the underlying bill and we commend their hard work and support. We will continue to push for these critical provisions that benefit the U.S. textile industry in Senate-House conference negotiations in the coming days.”


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  |  202.684.3091