In the days before social distancing (January 2020), Rick Carpenter welcomes attendees to STA's annual Winter Technical Conference in Gastonia, N.C.

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Rick Carpenter (R) and his mentor, George Abbott, share a moment before the retirement party of Auggie Tantillo of NCTO in May 2019 in Charlotte, N.C.

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Rick Carpenter of Conitex Sonoco USA with Daisuke Murata, president & CEO of Murata Machinery Ltd., at a Murata Machinery reception held in conjunction with ITMA 2019 in Barcelona.

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In the days before social distancing (January 2020), Rick Carpenter welcomes attendees to STA's annual Winter Technical Conference in Gastonia, N.C.

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Q&A with vice president

Carpenter answered call by ‘The Man’ to step up in STA


Posted June 25, 2020


(Editor’s note: The 112-year-old Southern Textile Association (STA) cancelled its in-person annual meeting scheduled for Myrtle Beach, S.C., this month, and is holding at virtual Board of Governors’ meeting and members’ meeting on Tuesday, June 30. At that time, the board will elect new officers and governors, as well as handle other business. Rick Carpenter, sales manager at Conitex Sonoco USA, Gastonia, N.C., has served as STA vice president over the last year and is expected to be elevated to president. In advance of the meeting, eTC Publisher Devin Steele posed the following questions to Carpenter.)


eTC: Rick, your time to take the president’s reins of the STA is almost here. What are your thoughts as you prepare to lead this time-honored organization?


Carpenter: It is a privilege and honor to assume the presidency of this organization during its 112th year. I am proud to say 2021 will mark my 40th year working in the U.S. textile industry and my 21st year of membership in STA. Our organization is facing a unique time in our history and I am very excited to be “leading the charge.”

eTC: Not ignoring the “elephant in the room,” you’re moving up during an unprecedented time for an organization that has survived world wars, recessions, a depression, global economic turmoil and more during its 112-year history. Looking ahead to the balance of the year as the world, the U.S. and the STA moves (hopefully) into a post-coronavirus world, how do you see the association remaining not only viable and relevant to members, but also becoming an even better asset to its constituents in the “new normal,” whatever that will be?


Carpenter: As you stated, our industry and organization has survived unimaginable challenges throughout our history, yet we have always emerged determined and strengthened despite the adversities we have faced. As with every other organization confronted with this pandemic, we will take things one day at a time and with every precaution necessary. In the meantime, STA will continue to function using technology holding virtual meetings and networking events. Is extremely important for STA members to remain involved and connected during the pandemic, which in turn supports and encourages our industry. It also keeps us in touch with our friends and colleagues given our inability to gather physically. 


eTC: How did you become involved in the STA and what were your thoughts when asked to move into the Executive Committee?

Carpenter: After the 2009 recession, STA leadership convened a committee lead by George Abbott (Inman Mills, retired) to look at ways to better serve our members and industry. George called and asked me if I would serve on this committee. As everyone knows, when “The Man” calls, you respond. In all seriousness, George has been a true mentor for me not only in STA but in business as well, and for that, I am truly thankful and fortunate. The next step was to take a leadership role at the division level serving as vice chairman and chairman of the Northern Division of STA then in 2017 was elected to the member at large on the Executive Committee.


eTC: What are your goals and aspirations for the association and how do you hope to position the organization to meet them?


Carpenter: First and foremost, short term, we must work to continue the mission of STA during this pandemic. The purpose of the association as stated in its charter is to promote good fellowship among its members and to exchange professional knowledge and experience on subjects relating to textile manufacturing. The big challenge will be to do this effectively by having virtual meetings as long as COVID-19 is a factor.


This type of meeting has become the “new normal” for many of our companies during this time of social distancing and restricted travel. Our goal as an organization must to be to continue to grow membership and develop future leaders. We also need to work hard on attracting young and diverse members to join STA.


eTC: Tell us about your company and your background/involvement in the textile industry.


Carpenter: Currently, I am the sales manager at Conitex Sonoco USA, a division of Sonoco Products. My company is the recognized leader for the manufacturing of paper cones and tubes, corrugated pallets and sliver cans worldwide for the textile industry.


Conitex Sonoco strongly supports STA and my commitment and involvement to our organization, for which I am greatly appreciative. I graduated from N.C. State Wilson College of Textiles in 1980 and worked for Fieldcrest Cannon the first 19 years of my career in manufacturing management and engineering. (As a side note, the office of a guy named Devin Steele was down the hall from me at Fieldcrest Cannon in the mid-1990s.)


eTC: The industry and the STA are enjoying a comeback of sorts after years of decline. That said why is it an exciting time to be involved in our great industry and such an esteemed association?


Carpenter: I am proud to be a part of the industry and organization that has survived many changes and continues to modernize and invest in providing jobs in our country. STA has been a very viable and successful organization for 112 years! I believe that speaks for itself and excites and humbles me to have such an honored and respected role in the continued efforts to strengthen both the STA and our industry.

eTC: What’s your pitch to prospective members?


Carpenter: STA allows us to meet and connect with people from all areas of our industry, including manufacturers, suppliers and other related businesses. Our meetings consist of technical and marketing information along with financial, human resources, trade and other topics that are current and relevant to our various companies. We hold our meetings at N.C. State, Clemson and Gaston College Textile Technology Center, which give our membership a great connection to research, testing and the future leaders of the textile industry. Professionally, STA is very valuable to our companies and the added benefit of developing lifelong friendships. You receive all this and more, for a mere annual membership fee of $90.


eTC: Please speak to the leadership of Greenwood Mills’ Matt Shannon, STA’s current president, having worked closely with him the last couple of years.


Carpenter: Under Matt’s leadership STA membership has continued to grow. This is the lifeblood of our organization. He has kept us on track during the pandemic and has been essential to charting the course for the coming year. His commitment to STA and Greenwood Mills is admirable. I look forward to us continuing to work together as he becomes the Chairman of STA.


eTC: What kind of leadership style will you bring to the STA?


Carpenter: My leadership style is one of inclusion and enthusiasm. I will rely heavily on the Executive Committee, the Board of Governors and the STA members as we navigate this unique year.

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