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(L-R) Chad McAllister, Textile Division president at Milliken & Co.; USTR Katherine Tai; and NCTO President & CEO Kim Glas.

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USTR Katherine Tai with textile industry leaders at the American & Efird headquarters in Mount Holly, N.C.

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Charles Heilig, President & CEO of Parkdale's Textile Division, greets USTR Katherine Tai at American & Efird's headquarters.

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(L-R) Chad McAllister, Textile Division president at Milliken & Co.; USTR Katherine Tai; and NCTO President & CEO Kim Glas.

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U.S. Trade Rep Tai visits Milliken & Co., A&E plants

Posted September 23, 2021


BLACKSBURG, S.C. and MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. – Milliken & Company and American & Efird (A&E) hosted United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Katherine Tai in two separate visits to the companies’ state-of-the-art textile manufacturing facilities today, marking an unprecedented visit to the heart of the U.S. textile industry in the Carolinas by the nation’s top trade chief.


Ambassador Tai’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. The industry has been at the forefront of a domestic production chain manufacturing over a billion Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) items during the COVID-19 pandemic.


During remarks at A&E, Ambassador Tai praised the industry for its collaboration and transition into PPE to help the country.


“During the early months of the pandemic, the U.S. textile industry, including many of you in this room, stepped up courageously and reconfigured your production lines to make protective equipment that was in high demand and short supply,” she said. “This big turnaround was nothing short of heroic, and I want to personally thank you for the lives you saved and the people you protected. We do not want to be caught in the same situation twice. Our administration wants to work with you to analyze lessons learned and determine how we can be more prepared in the future.”

Several pieces of legislation are on the table in the House and Senate to help ensure a domestic supply for PPE exists going forward.


The ambassador’s visit to Milliken included a tour of the company’s Magnolia plant in Blacksburg, S.C., and a roundtable discussion highlighting the important role women contribute to textiles, the critical need for policies supporting a domestic supply chain and the significant impact of the sector to the U.S. economy.


Milliken is one of the largest textile companies in the U.S., employing more than 6,000 associates domestically and an additional 1,350 associates globally. Milliken’s Textile Business alone employs 2,500 people across eight counties in South Carolina and is the fourth largest manufacturing employer in the Upstate.


"Milliken is honored to host Ambassador Tai at our Magnolia plant to discuss not only the invaluable contributions we make every day to our community and our nation, but also the importance of sound trade policies that bolster domestic production and the co-production chains we have built, in particular with our Western Hemisphere trading partners,” said Chad McAllister, executive vice president of Milliken & Company and president, Textile Business. “To have Ambassador Tai onsite at one of our U.S. facilities is an opportunity to showcase our breadth of innovation in the industry and our passionate team of American workers who help our business succeed. We are fortunate and thankful for Ambassador Tai’s leadership as well as her commitment to understanding the challenges and opportunities of our industry.”


Ambassador Tai thanked the industry and said, “I want to thank NCTO for organizing this event. As United States Trade Representative, I am committed to helping all of your companies build on the success by finding market opportunities and helping reach new customers. I want to ensure that our trade policy matches the innovation and changes happening in the textiles industry. With your help, we can continue addressing critical issues. In doing so, we will help the textiles industry maintain its competitive edge and ensure it remains a global standard-bearer in the years to come.”


On the second leg of her trip, Ambassador Tai visited American & Efird’s manufacturing facility in Mount Holly, N.C. American & Efird operates as part of Elevate Textiles and its global portfolio of advanced products and distinguished textile brands, including A&E, Burlington, Cone Denim, Gütermann and Safety Components, and representing more than 500 years of textile manufacturing knowledge.


During the visit, U.S. textile executives spanning the fiber, yarn, fabric and finished product textile and apparel industry participated in a roundtable with the ambassador at which they discussed the competitiveness of the domestic industry, outlined priority issues in Washington, such as the importance of the Western Hemisphere co-production chain and ways to jointly support domestic supply chains through Buy American and Berry Amendment policies that help onshore production, spur investment, maintain the safety and security of our armed forces and generate new jobs.


“It was an honor hosting Ambassador Tai at our manufacturing facility in Mount Holly, employing 380 valued associates and just two miles from where the company started 130 years ago,” said Sim Skinner, CEO of Elevate Textiles. “A&E maintains a significant manufacturing footprint in the Carolinas with 1,200 total associates, and we contribute significantly to our local community and the entire manufacturing base in the United States, touching every aspect of life, from the threads in Superbowl footballs to flags on the moon and most recently, to the very PPE products protecting our frontline heroes and fellow Americans against COVID-19 and the Space X suits that are orbiting Earth right now. We had an engaging discussion with the ambassador on our company’s and industry’s innovation and competitiveness, and on the policy priorities that we believe will help ensure our competitiveness and long-term investment in the domestic textile industry.”


National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) President and CEO Kim Glas said, “We want to sincerely thank Ambassador Tai for visiting Milliken and American & Efird today. Her leadership in the international trade policy arena and her understanding of the unique challenges confronting domestic manufacturers and U.S. workers under the international trade system is unparalleled. The U.S. textile industry is one of the most dynamic, innovative industries in the U.S. economy and our co-production chain with our Western Hemisphere trade partners is essential. Trade policies are essential to this manufacturing sector and workforce. We look forward to working closely with the ambassador and her office to advance policies that bolster domestic production.


Glas added: “We are grateful to Ambassador Tai for participating in an engaging and substantive discussion with industry leaders today on a whole host of policies, ranging from the importance of Buy American and Berry Amendment government procurement policies to maintaining strong rules of origins in free trade agreements to the need to address larger systemic trade issues with China.”


During remarks at Milliken and Company, Ambassador Tai said, “I am so impressed by what they’re making here and how they’re making under an environmentally sustainable program. What I’ve been most impressed by is the pride that the folks here have in what they’re making.

I was able to model one of the U.S. Olympic jackets (made by U.S. textile companies) and putting that on reminds me of the kind of pride we feel every four years watching the Olympics. That’s the kind of pride we should feel in a company like Milliken every single day.”


Prior to an off-the-record meeting with leaders of several textile companies, Ambassador Tai touched on the subject of international trade and how they have impacted the industry.


“I recognize that free trade agreements are often viewed with skepticism in some corners, as the promised benefits have not always matched up with adequate results,” she said. “I totally get it. I’m hoping that during our roundtable today to hear how trade policy has impacted your businesses, both positively and negatively, by having an honest discussion so that we can create together a more inclusive, more durable policy that helps your businesses and your workers and our economy.”


She added: “We also want to make sure that our trade policy matches changes and innovation that are happening in our textile industry. For example, I know that your sector is making great strides in implementing sustainable practices. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to helping our business tackle climate change in a way that advances economic growth, creates jobs and prepares our industries compete today and into the future.”


Sources: NCTO and eTC

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