North Carolina is a business-friendly state. It always has been. Legislators have taken a balanced approach—supporting and encouraging traditional manufacturing and services while providing incentives to entrepreneurs and emerging technologies and sciences. The Manufacturing Solutions Center and the Textile Technology Center have played a major role in the success of hosiery and textiles companies over the past three decades, thanks to funding from the state. The state appropriations enabled the centers to train personnel from successive generations for jobs in the plants. This money made possible the development of testing laboratories and resources—human and technology—to assist companies in the development of new high-performance products. They have been stewards for the path to the future. Thousands of jobs have been saved and created.
Business and government partnerships are not just desirable. They are essential. When the legislative action program was initiated by manufacturers of the Carolina Hosiery Association in 1992, the Hosiery Technology Center was struggling with a budget of $125,000, enough to pay managing director Dan St. Louis and no much more. Without the support of suppliers, it would not have had a future. Almost three decades later the Manufacturing Solutions Center operates with an annual budget of about $2 million and 20 employees in a different world. The story of the Textile Technology Center is equally dramatic with outreach and services to foreign-based companies establishing operations in North Carolina.
Business executives who took trips to Raleigh put a face on textiles and the supply chain. They also learned the complexities of governing. The industry owes them a lot.
On a personal note, I have been proud to play a role in the developing relationship over the past 27 years as a lobbyist and representative of the manufacturers in Raleigh. But it is time to go. With even more productive relationships involving the MSC, the Textile Technology Center and College of Textiles at NCSU, North Carolina is poised to be the undisputed textiles center of the United States.
It has been quite a run over the past 51 years. Good luck.