KUMBAYA MOMENT FOR HOSIERY MANUFACTURING

Paul Fogleman,

RING IN THE NEW: Ettore Lonati, left, rings the bell that symbolizes the start of a new era for hosiery manufacturing.Also seen, second from left:Darrell Frye, vice president Harriss and Covington Hosiery Co.; Conover Mayor Lee Moritz;Dan St. Louis, director of the Manufacturing Solutions Center.

IT’S TIME:Darrell Frye, chairman of the Hosiery and Textiles Governmental Affairs Council, gives opening remarks at the Lonati equipment show.Frye said it is time for the U.S. hosiery industry to prepare for the resurgence in manufacturing.From right:Conover Mayor Lee Moritz, MSC Director Dan St. Louis, and Lonati Sp.Apresident Ettore Lonati.

CHECKING NEW TECHNOLOGY: Representatives from hosiery companies traveled to the MSC during a three-day period to learn about the newest 21st century technology in knitting.Some of the sheer products produced in one piece are displayed around the DONNA 440 needle machine. One North Carolina manufacturer placed a $3 million order for the machines that sell for up to $40,000.


Scores of hosiery manufacturers and yarn company notables assembled at the Manufacturing Solutions Center Wednesday, April 8, for the rollout of state-of-the-knitting equipment by Lonati Spa. Not since the late 1990s had such an event been staged for the U.S. hosiery producers. Ettore Lonati, president, took not of the significance. The upswing in orders from American mills began two years ago with the re-emergence of demand for American-made products.

One North Carolina mill acknowledged placing a $3 million order for GOAL/GL sock knitting machine with a separate device for complete toe closing. The single-cylinder two-feed machines for making solid or patterned socks or pantyhose, is electronically programmed for memory storage of several styles with eight sizes each. PAM Trading Co. of Greensboro is the authorized distributor for the GOAL.

In adjacent areas Lonati had set up the DONNA Laop fine gauge machine for manufactuers of shee products—pantyhose, tights, medical apparel, and other specialty items. The single-cylinder four-feeds or two-feeds machine can produce pouches in reciprocal motion and it, too, has extensive memory for styles, sizes, and patterns. Henderson Machinery Co. President Bobby Irvin said the diversity of the machine was opening new markets for sheer manufacturers.

The new Lonati machines are fueling a new high-tech era for the industry. Fewer, highly-skilled, personnel are doubling production in a 24-hour period when compared to the output of mills prior to the downsizing resulting from global competition.

Darrell Frye, vice president of Harriss and Covington Hosiery Co. and chairman of the Hosiery and Textiles Governmental Affairs Council described a new American hosiery industry that is positioned for a strong, profitable future, thanks to the support of the Manufacturing Solutions Center. His words were echoed for Conover Mayor Lee Moritz who was a vice president for sales at Moretz Inc. which later became Moretz/Gold Toe. Moritz said he encouraged Conover to raise $3 million from state and federal sources to build the MSC, confident the industry would make a comeback.

TRAINING, TRAINING, TRAINING

Rick Small, director of training for the Manufacturing Solutions Center was catching up on the technology of the new Lonati line. Small said he is booked through August. Dan St. Louis said the training program will be expanded, using funds appropriated last year by the General Assembly. North Carolina mills need at least 200 technicians, the MSC estimates.

BACK WITH A FULL PLATE

The N.C. Legislators were back on the job this week after a “Spring Break.” No committees met and only a ceremonial Senate session was held last week. The intense work schedule now is fueled by the approaching April 30 cross-over deadline. Any bill that is not heard in either a House or Senate committee by that date is banished to Never-Never Land. The exception is appropriations and the budget. However tax reform measures must be heard in the next two weeks, including the bill that implements a single sales tax formula for manufacturing corporate taxes.

The survey sent our by the HTGAC included a response by a Gaston County mill that would save $300,000 a year with the simplified system. Redistribution of sales taxes to rural counties as the expense of urban centers also faces a fiery debate and uncertain future.

COMING IN JUNE

A meeting for members and prospective members of the Hosiery and Textiles Governmental Affairs Council is planned for mid-June. The leadership of the Council hopes to learn what the members are seeking in addition to the services. The Council is dedicated to the financial support for the MSC and the Textile Technology Center. This year, the council is working with the Senate on corporate tax reform.

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