The U.S. Department of Defense has selected the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to run a $317 million public-private partnership to run a Manufacturing Innovation Partnership to create and manufacture new, high-tech textile products. The initiative is known as AFFOA, Advanced Functional Fabrics of America.
The Textile Technology Center of Gaston College is among the partners which includes 32 universities, 16 industry members, 72 manufacturing entities and 26 startup incubators. The partners are in 27 states and Puerto Rico. N.C. State University College of Textiles and the Manufacturing Solutions Center at Catawba Valley Community College are participating.
An overview of the partnership structure and mission was given to SYFA attendees in Charlotte by Carole Winterhalter of the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Center. She stressed that the institute will identify opportunities for breakthroughs in high-tech products and pursue commercialization of those with the most potential. The new fibers and fabrics made from them will have the ability “to see, hear, and sense their surroundings…communicate, store and convert energy, monitor health, control temperature, and change color,” a MIT news release reports.
The initiative will focus on the manufacturing of products and the training of production personnel. The Textile Technology Center and the Manufacturing Solutions Center are pushing for a role in personnel training.
The campaigns in North Carolina and across the U.S. include major implications for our manufacturers and their supply chain companies. Nationally, the election results will determine what lies ahead for minimum wages, healthcare insurance, trade and exports. In state government, look for debates on taxes, environmental issues and sustainability, and a list of workforce issues. Regardless of political parties, the impact of a growing electorate of millennials will bring about changes. As millennials and Generation X people take on more manufacturing jobs a cultural change will creep into your workplace.
Current polls among North Carolina voters indicate the significance of change. The gubernatorial race is almost dead-even, with Attorney General Roy Cooper over incumbent Pat McCrory by two to four percentage points. The U.S. Senate race has most polls showing incumbent Sen. Richard Burr just two percentage points over challenger Deborah Ross. In the presidential race, Hilliary Clinton is two to four percentages over Donald Trump.
On the positive side, regardless of political party, there will be more emphasis on jobs for the future and the role of community colleges.
Pursuit of sustainable manufacturing strategies has been touted—and implemented—over the past decade by textile manufacturers. In the future, there will be no option for textile companies in the U.S, according to the keynote speaker at the recent SYFA conference in Charlotte.
Randi Kronthal-Sacco, chief marketing officer for Pure Renewals LLC, asserted that production of textiles products is having a significant impact on climate change, the availability of future water supplies, and clean air. The manufacture of manmade fiber is energy-intensive and creating carbon monoxides. She also said that 62 billion pounds of post-industrial textile waste goes into U.S. landfills every year.
Ms. Kronthal-Sacco argued that sustainable manufacturing is good for business, leading to more innovation, loyalty of consumers, a lower-cost supply chain, and an improved return on assets.
Manufacturing segments that threaten the availability of clean water or over-tax landfills also will face the threat of government intervention if public opposition is aroused. Local and state lawmakers can lead to expensive confrontations as the current coal ash controversy in North Carolina attests.
Your contributions to HOSEPAC will enable us to help those members who have stepped up for our industries and our legislative initiatives. Contributions must be personal—companies cannot contribute. Please send contributions to Hosepac, P.O. Box 1708, Hickory, NC 28603.
The federal courts forced the Republican-dominated legislature to redraw congressional districts for the upcoming election and it is expected another mandate from the courts will require legislative districts to be revamped. The courts have written communications indicating that race was considered by GOP lawmakers in the redistricting process in 2011. Republicans will remain in control in the next session but with smaller majorities in the House and Senate. Also, there will be wholesale changes in the leadership due to resignations.
The HTGAC has supporters on both sides of the aisle. In January a new Legislature with dozens of new members will convene. There will be significant changes.
Rep. Chris Malone of Wake County and Rep. Billy Richardson of Cumberland County have contacted the HTGAC offices to reinterate their support of our efforts to remove the $80 franchise tax imposed on new manufacturing equipment. Removal of the tax would cost the state $12 million out of a $22 billion budget. Our argument is that nothing should penalize hosiery and textile mills that are updating capabilities for 21st century manufacturing. Roy Cooper affirmed his support for removal in a discussion during a campaign stop in Hickory.
With the historic 2016 general elections less than 60 days ahead, polls are showing North Carolina is moving from purple to blue—especially in the gubernatorial race. Most recently, the University of Virginia Center for Politics mved the state from “toss-up” to “leans Democrat.” Other polls, including the Public Policy Poll, report voters favor Attorney General Roy Cooper by 7 percentage points over incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory. Most pollsters and media personalities point to HB2, the so-called bathrooms bill, as the turning point. Others suggest that Donald Trump’s embracing of Russian President Vladimir Putin has damaged the GOP brand this year.
The state’s business community was pulled into the HB2 affray when Gov. McCrory reported that the N.C. Chamber had participated in the drafting of the bill. Chamber President Lew Ebert strongly denied the report. The bill included provisions that restricted the rights of employees to sue companies for illegal practices and discrimination.
The arrival of Fall is also the beginning of a new year for the Hosiery and Textiles Governmental Affairs Council. The legislative lobbying program for the hosiery and textiles manufacturers began in 1992 with the support of the Carolina Hosiery Assn. Since 2002, the pro-active work on behalf the industries has been supported by the HTGAC, with primary objectives to support the success of the Manufacturing Solutions Center and the Textile Technology Center.
This work goes on year-round. As new members enter the House and Senate and leadership positions change, the on-scene lobbying activity includes communicating the needs of the centers and our manufacturers. As companies adjust to a new economy, and the centers support training and research priorities, the partnership with the General Assembly comes more important.
Membership letters will go out next month. Please encourage companies to join us.
Several national polls, including the NBC/Wall Street Journal’s, show Democrats ahead in North Carolina races for president, U.S. Senate and governor. Attorney General Roy Cooper reportedly is six percentage points ahead of incumbent Pat McCrory in the governor’s race. In the House, Democrats are not likely to regain the majority but can pick up enough seats to prevent a veto override. If Cooper wins, this is especially significant. The rapid growth of suburban precincts in Mecklenburg and Wake Counties could help Democrats. Also the GOP leadership’s stringent defense of controversial House Bill 2 reportedly is alienating moderate party voters and independents.
In an election season that has been like no other in recent history, surprise announcements and news reports are emerging from the leadership of political parties in North Carolina. Two top leaders in the N.C. House of Representatives have bowed out early, leaving Republicans scrambling for replacements. Rep. Charles Jeter of Mecklenburg County, chairman of the House caucus, pulled out of his race three weeks ago. This week, House Majority Leader Mike Hager of Rutherford County announced his departure. Both cited family reasons for their decisions. Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam also is not seeking re-election.
Democrats in the House will have a race for the Minority Leader position. Rep. Ed Hanes of Forsyth County has announced he will run for the position now held by Rep. Larry Hall of Durham. Hall has been criticized for lack of candidates recruiting in districts where Republicans have no opposition.