Rick Carpenter prepped for rare second term as STA president

Posted July 19, 2021


(Editor’s note: The 113-year-old Southern Textile Association (STA) cancelled its in-person annual meeting in June, and is holding its Board of Governors’ meeting in person this week. 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 president over the last year and is expected to be elected for a second term. In advance of the meeting, eTC Publisher Devin Steele posed the following questions to Carpenter.)


eTC: Rick, these are crazy times for everyone, of course, and the STA is no exception. Because the group was not able to meet in person over the last 18 or so months, you were asked to continue your term as president for a second year, a rarity in the association’s 113-year history. What are your thoughts on serving in an extended time capacity, and was it ever any question that you would step up to do so?


Carpenter: It was an honor to be asked to serve a second year. There was never a question on my part that if asked, I would accept. STA leadership felt that it was important during these unprecedented times that leadership group remain stable.

eTC: During a year-and-a-half of virtual meetings, how did the STA continue to bring value to members, and what efforts did the association take to keep members engaged and encouraged?


Carpenter: Our main initiative was continuing to connect and “meet” virtually. Even though it was not in-person meetings, it still allowed the membership to stay in touch and informed with excellent speakers at our virtual events.

eTC: You’ve been an STA member for more than two decades, and I’ve seen your devotion to the group grow to a passion level. In your opinion, why is STA important to you, members, potential members and the industry in general?


Carpenter: First and foremost, STA allows its members to network across the textile industry and its suppliers. Our seminars often deal with topics that are relevant to any type of manufacturer or service business. Obviously, STA has been an asset to my business and on a personal level I have developed deep lifetime friendships with a lot of members and their families. I see the good it brings member’s companies and what it means to most of them on a personal level.


eTC: As the world begins to open post-pandemic, what are your goals and aspirations for the association and how do you hope to position the organization to meet them


Carpenter: Our #1 goal is to safely return to in-person meetings. The Board of Directors will meet in person on July 22 and the Summer Marketing Meeting, one of our most popular meetings, will take place on August 31-September 1. STA’s first in-person membership meeting in 17 months. We want to get back to serving our members at the top-notch level they deserve and expect.

eTC: Growing membership and relevance is always a goal of STA, of course. Please give us an update on these fronts, especially considering the coronavirus crisis, and what the association did regarding member dues over the last year-pl


Carpenter: Membership retention and growth are always in the forefront in any organization. Over the years STA has always been frugal and conservative financially so during the pandemic, when many of our members’ companies were struggling, we made the decision to forgo dues for one year. This allowed us to retain our membership base and as we just recently invoiced for this year’s dues and we are seeing renewals coming in quickly – which is a very positive sign!

eTC: Even through COVID-19, the association continued to hold relevant virtual meetings for members. What were your highlights of these virtual events, and what kind of feedback did you hear from members?


Carpenter: I think the top highlight feedback I heard was it was so great to “see” and hear the voices of my STA friends and colleagues. STA held four virtual division meetings with familiar speakers such as Kim Glas, president & CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations, Susan Roberts of Davidson College and Bruce Yandle of Clemson. The 2020 Winter Technical Seminar and Summer Marketing Forum were also both very successful virtual meetings. I think the worse loss was the two annual meetings we lost in 2020 and 2021. We look forward to gathering members and their families in Hilton Head in June of 2022.

eTC: Please comment on your colleagues who are serving in officers’ roles within the STA, as well as longtime Secretary/Treasurer Lillian Link, and how they have supported your goals and assisted you in this role.


Carpenter: I am very confident that every STA member and especially folks that are holding or have held leadership positions in STA know and appreciate Lillian’s tireless dedication and commitment to STA. She sheds the limelight and accolades she deserves for her leadership and commitment. Matt Shannon, our current chairman of the board, has stayed committed while working hard to keep a textile operation running during these difficult times. The list of names is too long to mention but a lot of folks have worked very hard behind the scenes to keep our organization running smoothly.

eTC: Can you share any stories or “things I’ve heard or seen” anecdotes about the STA related to how the organization is important for members and potential members?


Carpenter: Countless times people have contacted me looking for information, and my first go-to list is always my STA colleagues. Our organization represents many type businesses and institutions, and our members have a wealth of knowledge and experience.  

eTC: If you had to pick a “legacy item” for your leadership year at the STA, what would it be?


Carpenter: It would be we persevered as an organization under one of the most difficult periods in our 113-year history-maybe since World War II. Our membership remained committed and STA continued to serve our membership thru virtual events.

eTC: Please tell us about the STA’s forthcoming in-person events, including Techtextil North America and the Summer Marketing Forum, and what members can expect.


Carpenter: STA is very excited about participating in Techtextil North America in August. Having a booth at this event allows us to meet potential new members and gives current STA members a place to network and maybe rest their feet among industry friends. Please stop by, we as you will be probably be welcomed by one of our retired members who has volunteered to attend the event and assist in recruiting new STA members – his specialty. I do not want to spoil the surprise. We are also anxiously anticipating our Summer Marketing Meeting. The meet & greet will be held the evening of August 31 and the meeting will be at the Textile Technology Center- Kimbrell Campus on Belmont, NC on September 1.


On an important side note, I would also like to mention that how much I appreciate the support that Conitex Sonoco gives me to participate in STA.

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