STA remains virtual (but valuable) to members as 2021 cranks up


Posted February 4, 2021


The Southern Textile Association (STA) remained “virtual” in 2021 while remaining valuable to its 500+ members through its educational, information and networking events.


The latest was its annual Winter Technical Seminar, with one speaker presenting each day last week as part of the STA’s Lunch & Learn Series.

But what’s COVID-19 to this venerable organization? After all, the association has survived world wars, recessions, a depression, global economic turmoil, trade wars, industry contraction and more during its 113-year history – including a previous pandemic a century ago.


So the group gathered on Zoom last week to stay connected and learn, in hopes of gathering in person again soon.

So the group gathered on Zoom last week to stay connected and learn, in hopes of gathering in person again soon. STA First Vice President Cameron Hamrick, president of Hamrick Mills, Gaffney, S.C., presided. STA President Rick Carpenter, sales manager at Conitex Sonoco USA, Gastonia, N.C., provided updates on the association throughout the week.


Speakers, in order of appearance, included:


  • Sam Buff, vice president and general manager of the Manufacturing and Textile Innovation Network (MTIN);

  • Dr. Bruce Yandle, Distinguished Adjunct Fellow, George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, and Dean Emeritus, Clemson University’s College of Business & Behavioral Science;

  • Vance Tiller, executive vice president, Impact Workforce Solutions;

  • Dr. Gary Adams, president & CEO of the National Cotton Council of America; and

  • Laura Murphy, research director, Fibers at Wood Mackenzie Chemicals


Below are summaries of their presentations.


Stay tuned for further details about STA’s Spring Meetings, along with its Annual Meeting in the summer.

MTIN, a Unique Partnership Designed to Drive Economic Development in the U.S.


Sam Buff

Vice president and general manager, Manufacturing and Textile Innovation Network (MTIN)

Sam Buff, vice president and general manager of the recently created Manufacturing and Textile Innovation Network (MTIN), discussed the vision of the entity.

The MTIN is a unique partnership between the Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) in Conover, N.C., and the Textile Technology Center at Gaston College in Belmont, N.C. It is aimed to drive and streamline services such as prototyping, applied research and development, training, entrepreneurship and company incubation, he said.

“We created an umbrella organization of two very strong brands,” Buff said. “I don’t think you’ll see a big change early on. We aim to better package and better serve our customers. We’re working on streamlining our vision statement and our services and make it easier to work. You may start with fiber development at the TTC and end up at the MSC.”


Buff was joined by Robin Phillips-Hauser, MTIN’s director of business development, who further explained how the MTIN better serves business and industry needs as a unified organization.

The 2021 Coronovirus Economy:

Better? The Same? Worse?


Dr. Bruce Yandle

Distinguished adjunct fellow at George Washington University’s Mercatus Center and dean emeritus of Clemson University's College of Business & Behavioral Science

Dr. Bruce Yandle, distinguished adjunct fellow at George Washington University’s Mercatus Center and dean emeritus of Clemson University's College of Business & Behavioral Science reviewed the economic trendlines prior to and during the pandemic before peeking into his crystal ball.


“What does the path back look like? A lot of people predicted – and I was one of them – that there would have a rapid recovery and we would begin to get back to the even point maybe in the third quarter of 2020,” Yandle said. “Didn't quite happen. Others said, ‘let's give it another quarter.’ And then there were others who said, ‘Oh, I think it's going to be in 2021.’ Parts of the economy have recovered. Other parts will be much, much slower to recover. But it looks as though we will begin to get back to a better-than-normal growth rate in GDP and then a normal growth rate as the rest of this year unfolds.”


He added that for 2021, an amalgamation of forecasts predicts unusually high growth this year, primarily due a to possible stimulus bill. “We haven’t had a year in recent memory when we exceeded 4 percent growth,” he said. “But we haven't been coming back from the dead in recent memory, so sometimes you can get some pretty high growth rates.”

People, Politics and the Pandemic


Vance Tiller

Executive vice president

Impact Workforce Solutions

Vance Tiller, executive vice president at Impact Workforce Solutions, Charlotte, N.C., presented "People, Politics and the Pandemic.”

With a diverse background that includes leadership roles in the staffing industry, sales and business development, mergers and acquisitions, nonprofits and as an entrepreneur, he offered an experienced, birds-eye view of things to expect coming out of the pandemic and into a new presidential administration. Pointing out that everyone is “drinking from a fire hose” in today’s environment, Tiller offered this advice: “Don’t do it alone – find a partner to worth to help you navigate.”


He touched on a number of issues to consider in the workplace, presenting them as “21 Thoughts for 2021,” and included such items as diversity, inclusion & equity; leadership assessment; the value of online learning and working remotely; recruitment vs. retention; scenario planning; changing workforce legislation and much more.


“The most important thing to realize about today is you’re not alone,” Tiller said. “If we lean on each other and work together, I think we have a fighting chance to make it through this better than before.”

Overview of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol


Dr. Gary Adams

President & CEO

National Cotton Council of America

Dr. Gary Adams, president & CEO of the National Cotton Council of America, Memphis, Tenn., presented an overview of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.


Aligned with the U.N. Sustainability Goals, the Trust Protocol brings quantifiable and verifiable goals and measurement to sustainable cotton production and drives continuous improvement in six key sustainability metrics – land use, soil carbon, water management, soil loss, greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency, he said. By joining the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, members can be sure that they are demanding responsibly produced, quality fiber and reducing environmental and social risk in their field-to-mill supply chain.


About 560 cotton producers, 20 cotton merchandisers, about 170 mills/manufacturers and a number of brands and retailers are enrolled in the Trust Protocol, Adams reported.

The cotton industry has reduced its environmental impact for 35 years, and brands and retailers continue put more scrutiny on their supply chains, turning to the cotton sector to validate by standards and initiatives.

Fiber Market Update


Laura Murphy

Research director for Fibers,

Wood Mackenzie Chemicals

Laura Murphy, research director for fibers at Wood Mackenzie Chemicals, presents an overview of the global fiber market.


She covered the effects of COVID-19 on the global marketplace, drilling down into such areas as automobile sales and miles traveled, oil prices, the housing market and apparel.


“In 2018, the world hit $100 million tons of production of all fibers put together, and in late 2019, we were predicting that by 2030, the world would get up to $143 million tons,” Murphy said. “Now we're seeing that from a peak of last year, we're looking at maybe a 10 percent decrease overall for 2020 due to COVID effects. And we're thinking it's going to take two to three years to recover. Different fibers are going to recover at different levels, and it's going to take a very long time to get back to that magic of $143 million tons that we were forecasting originally for 2030.”

Murphy also noted that oil prices will continue to rise for the next year, and raw materials will follow;


U.S. polyester prices continue above Asia prices, bringing more challenges for U.S. fiber producers; and that shipping logistics issues may provide near-shoring opportunities.

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