Rep. McHenry, Parkdale partner to promote U.S. textiles’ potency
Posted October 8, 2020
By Devin Steele (DSteele@eTextileCommunications.com)
GASTONIA, N.C. – U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.-10) met today with leaders of Parkdale to discuss legislation he has co-sponsored to ensure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is made in America and other issues related to the U.S. textile industry’s responsiveness to the PPE shortage during the COVID-19 crisis.
In late July, McHenry joined Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.-09) to introduce the American PPE Supply Chain Integrity Act. This bipartisan legislation is aimed at helping end the United States' reliance on Chinese-made PPE and ensure that hospitals and frontline healthcare workers have access to a plentiful supply of high-quality American made PPE.
Parkdale, the largest consumer of cotton in the U.S. and one of the largest providers of spun yarns in the world, was at the forefront of the industry’s stepping up to address the nation’s PPE shortfall when the pandemic was spreading in March. At the urgent call of the White House, the company helped lead an effort to build a coalition of iconic American apparel and textile companies to build a supply chain virtually overnight and fast-track the manufacturing of medical face masks to help hospitals, healthcare workers and citizens battling the spread of coronavirus.
As part of the McHenry’s legislative push for U.S.-made PPE, Parkdale officials introduced to the media an awareness campaign it created for lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The endeavor was borne out of a philanthropic effort it launched a couple of months ago for the towns in which its 20+ plants are located.
The company’s ”I Wear, I Care™” program was designed to donate free face masks emblazoned with those words to citizens of those communities. All told, Parkdale gave out more than 20,000 face masks. Parkdale, America Knits (cut and sew) in Swainsboro, Ga., and U.S. Bag (packaging, part of Parkdale’s U.S. Cotton Division) were all part of the product’s creation.
From that successful undertaking, the company decided to create red, white and blue versions of those masks to share with all members of Congress. The aim is to stress the importance of U.S. textiles and a domestic supply chain as it relates to the health, safety and wellbeing of the country – particularly as McHenry’s bill and similar pieces of legislation are considered in the coming months.
The goal is to send packs of 10 face masks to every legislator – each with a photo and caption highlighting a U.S. textile manufacturing employee who helped produce the mask, which also includes the words “Made In USA” and an American flag on the front.
“This puts a face to the name of a person who helped contribute during the crisis,” said Davis Warlick, Parkdale executive vice president. “It shows how proud they are to be a part of it. And it highlights how incredible they have been during this period of time. It’s a call to action to our politicians to help support our textile industry.”
McHenry said his office is working with Parkdale to distribute the packages to lawmakers.
The American PPE Supply Chain Integrity Act implements the Berry Amendment standard of “100 percent of a product that is grown, reprocessed, reused or produced in the United States” for the purchase of PPE by the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It also resets the contract level for the Berry Amendment from $250,000 to $150,000 to ensure more PPE is made in America.
McHenry said his legislation is popular at the moment as the pandemic drags on and PPE needs remain strong, and he said he hopes it will move forward by the end of the year.
“We're trying to get this teed up for December,” he said. “We've gotten some bipartisan cooperation, which is good and necessary. It is just rational updates to existing law (Berry Amendment) that's been on the books for generations. So we're reorienting this for what we're now experiencing in international trade and in the marketplace now and with the virus. So it's a modest set of tweaks around procurement. I'm optimistic we can get something done in December.”
He added this caveat: “But we’re still in the midst of crazy politics – I would say we’re hitting the singles and doubles of legislating. We're not hitting home runs right now but we're getting a few things done. It can still happen, even in our complex system.”
McHenry, a native of Gastonia – historically nicknamed “Spindle City” for the monumental number of yarn spindles it once had in operation and still does to a certain extent – certainly understands the importance of the U.S. textiles to his district. And he wants to help shine the industry’s light during this pandemic. He said he realized early on during the pandemic that the time was right for the industry to show the world the industry’s capabilities.
“Rewind to March, when there was this massive call that went out to industry asking, ‘what can you do for us?’ ” he said. “The textile industry said, ‘look, we're here. We know how to do this stuff. And we can reposition assets to produce what you need. We know how to do this.’
The crisis brought to bear all of the America’s trade relationships, he added, encompassing everything from pharmaceuticals to textiles.
“The pandemic highlighted our trade relationships and why it's important that we have control and access to support the supply chain,” McHenry said. “The most important supply chain is fully domestic – hands down. Everybody knows that's a slam dunk. So when you have components of your supply chain that are counter to your interests and the country’s interests, you put yourself in peril. And so we found ourselves in March trying to figure out that process.
“Even before the call was put out, the textile industry was calling out to say, ‘we know how to do this. Can you link us up with the right people in government? They may not know it, but we're here,’ ” he said. “The industry put out the call and said, ‘we're ready and able.’ That's a real testament to American textile ingenuity and capacity.”