Companies Keep up Tradition of Textiles

July 7, 2015
Lincoln Times-News
Shelby Cook, Reporter

Since more than a century ago, Lincoln County has been home to numerous textile industries. While a good number of these businesses have moved overseas, many remain, especially those with more advanced manufacturing processes. These businesses still flourish through the production, manufacturing, and sales of textiles and textile supply products. These more modern textile industries remain a strong part of our economy.

Overall, the number of textile-related jobs has declined throughout the region in the last couple of decades, yet there has been a slight increase in business that can be seen in recent years.

While it may not be as large a part of Lincoln County’s industrial base as it once was, textiles continue to play a role in the local economy.

“Not only do the manufacturing industries themselves continue to have an economic footprint, but the numerous supply and support businesses to that sector do as well,” said Cliff Brumfield, executive director of the Lincoln Economic Development Association. “Any textile-related industry considering a location in our region will find this to be a definite advantage.”

North Carolina Spinning Mills, a textile company that produces yarn, has been in business in Lincolnton for 51 years. The yarn that the company produces goes into hosiery, sweater material, upholstery, drapery and various other fabrics. The yarns go into fabrics for window treatments, vertical blinds and many other product lines.

“Textiles in the state are growing, our business is getting bigger, we’re growing and hiring more people”, CEO Bill Kaplan said, “and manufacturing is even growing a little bit.”

With the wide range of products that the yarn can be used for, it is evident how the business has stayed successful.

“As diversified as manufacturing has become, it is difficult to categorize an industry only into ‘textiles,’ depending on their individual manufacturing processes,” Brumfield said. “Those industries that rely on a skilled labor force, strong geographical connectivity, and dependable and ample utility suppliers will continue to hold a valuable place in our economy while enjoying our advantages in these areas.”

Lincoln County Fabricators has been in business in Lincolnton since 1972, and was started by the late Jerry F. Carpenter. The business started as a single-man welding operation in Carpenter’s backyard, and has now grown into a world-wide leader in the selling and manufacturing of textile tube creels, side creels, sock creels that feed yarn into knitting machines and cloth inspection machines. Lincoln County Fabricators even has lasers to cut through over an inch of steel.

The company sells mainly to Central America, though it does quite a bit of work for other local businesses in Lincoln County, such as Campbell and Sons, UCS and Carolina Non-Wovens. Lincoln County Fabricators remains a family owned business. The everyday business operations of the company are overseen by Jerry’s two sons, Kenny and David Carpenter.

Many of the local textile business owners and managers mentioned keys to remaining in business in the industry in modern times, including that a company must be hands-on with its work — a company can’t just make material, it takes checking and rechecking the product at times, as well as being alert of the buyers’ needs and overall demands of the industry.

Foust Textiles, located in Kings Mountain, has been in business for over 51 years. The company is a distributor of textiles and buys and re-sells fabrics, and sometimes has to cut and repackage the fabrics in order to make sales.

“The manufacturing of cotton fabrics is what we mostly deal with, and the consumer demand is high for these products, there just is not a lot made locally,” Foust sales representative John Plonk said. “In the Lumberton area, there is some growth of textiles and cotton fabric production, but most of this production has moved offshore.”

The Lincoln Economic Development Association (LEDA) promotes growth and development in many ways. The existing business and industry support program works to make a company’s decision to continually invest in Lincolnton and Lincoln County as profitable as it can be. LEDA also markets the abilities of local citizens and the county’s location and product (industrial parks, sites and available buildings) advantages across the globe. LEDA works closely with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, the Charlotte Regional Partnership and individual site selection contacts in both supporting existing and recruiting new industry. LEDA targets industry sectors that can provide long-term jobs and investment, providing for the best return and opportunity for the local workforce. LEDA’s supportive role in education and workforce development is helping not only local industries but the citizens in becoming prepared for lucrative career opportunities.

“The textile industry has stabilized and is seeing slight growth,” said Dr. Joe Keith, a Gaston College professor. “The Textile Technology Center at Gaston College is assisting a record number of companies in developing new products. Enrollment at the NC State College of Textiles is at record numbers, showing that our youths still have confidence in textiles as a career.”