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Textile World reviews the missions of a number of associations.

James C. Phillips Jr.

W ith the US textile industry in crisis, public attention naturally turns to those organizations that make headlines day in and day out. Several of the industry's flagship trade groups, such as the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI), often are in the news, attempting to sway both public and legislative perception in an ongoing battle to alter US trade policy (See " Focus: ATMI," this issue).

But there are other organizations that are active advocates for their members, while, for the most part, maintaining steadfastly apolitical agendas.

The Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), originally founded in 1912 as the National Tent & Awning Manufacturers Association, today represents more than 2,100 manufacturers, converters and suppliers.

Technical Textiles: Diverse Interests

Some of these textile trade groups date back nearly a century or more. One of the older and more prominent associations is the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), Roseville, Minn.

Since its founding in 1912 as the National Tent & Awning Manufacturers Association, the organization has grown to represent more than 2,100 manufacturers, converters and suppliers from around the world. More than 80 percent of the association's membership is United States-based, but there is substantial representation from other countries. Canada accounts for about 10 percent of membership, with the majority of the remainder in Japan and Europe.

Unlike many other associations, whose memberships comprise manufacturers from a single industry segment or market, IFAI's roster runs across traditional lines of demarcation.

"Approximately two-thirds of our members are fabricators," said Stephen M. Warner, IFAI president. "You will find among us weavers, distributors, coaters, knitters, fiber manufacturers, chemical companies, textile machinery manufacturers, converters and more. But you will also find architects and civil engineers. Member companies range in size from one-person shops to multinational corporations; members' products span the entire spectrum of the specialty fabrics industry, from fiber and fabric suppliers to manufacturers of end products, equipment and hardware," he said.

Part of the reason for the diversity of membership is the type of market an IFAI member traditionally serves. Generally, these manufacturers and suppliers have identified specific niche markets that require a high degree of specialization and customization. Typical applications for products include, among others, geosynthetics, coated inflatable products, tents, parachute fabrics, medical products, filtration materials, awnings and automotive materials.

In addition, unlike many other textile associations, you won't find IFAI representatives running up the steps of the Capitol attempting to peddle influence among the nation's lawmakers.

"We are not a lobbying organization," Warner said. "But we act as advocates for our members and often work on such issues as trade legislation with the US Industrial Fabrics Institute. And we are not a protectionist organization."

The primary benefit members get from IFAI affiliation is networking. "We like to see ourselves as the gatekeeper of information," Warner said. "We provide services and information through a multi-layered and close relationship with members, customers and suppliers up and down the supply chain.

"We have diverse services because we serve a broad market. Many of our members are in small niche markets that would not be able to support a trade association for their specific area of specialization," Warner said.

IFAI has 15 product-oriented divisions ranging from casual furniture fabrics, geosynthetics, narrow fabrics and inflatable recreational products; to lightweight structural products; to tents, awnings, truck covers and tarps.

Unlike many other associations, IFAI receives only 13 percent of its revenue from dues. The remainder comes from the specific services, conferences and publications the organization produces.

The Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA), Cary, N.C., sees itself as the leading information resource and action vehicle for nonwovens. The organization has established a reputation for monitoring government programs and policies relative to the nonwovens industry. INDA is the sponsor of the IDEA International Engineered Fabrics Conference & Expo, which serves the nonwovens industry worldwide. IDEA is held every three years in the United States.

Machinery Focus

On the machinery side, the American Textile Machinery Association (ATMA), Falls Church, Va., seeks to advance US-based manufacturers of textile machinery. The 110-plus-member organization is perhaps best known for its cosponsorship of the American Textile Machinery Exhibition-International (ATME-I). Funding for the organization comes from ATME-I revenue and member dues.

The purpose of ATMA, according to the organization, is to "improve business conditions within the textile machinery industry of the United States within a global context; to encourage the use of the products of the industry; and to protect, promote, foster and advance the common interests of the members as manufacturers and distributors of textile machinery and parts and machinery accessory to textile machinery on a worldwide basis."

Dyes And Chemicals

The American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC), Research Triangle Park, N.C., bills itself as the "world's largest technical and scientific society devoted to the advancement of textile chemistry." AATCC has more than 5,000 individual members and 270 corporate members in the United States and 65 countries around the world.

Since its inception in 1921, AATCC has dedicated itself to promoting knowledge of dye and chemical applications in the textile industry, encouraging research on chemical processes and materials relevant to the industry, and establishing communications channels facilitating the interchange of professional knowledge and ideas. The organization uses a variety of tools to accomplish these objectives, including publications, workshops, symposia and the annual AATCC International Conference & Exhibition (IC&E).

Apparel And Sewn Products

The American Apparel Producers' Network (AAPNetwork), Atlanta, is a global, non-profit organization of more than 200 producers of apparel and their 50,000 workers. AAPNetwork promotes the US apparel industry and helps fulfill worldwide demand for American apparel. The organization matches sourcing managers, producers and suppliers of apparel and helps locate designers, producers and support services. The group is funded by annual dues of $1,450 per member. There is a set-up charge for first-time members.

The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA),  Arlington, Va., promotes its members' interests by seeking minimized regulatory, legal, commercial, political and trade restraints. According to AAFA, the organization represents "the points of view and [pursues] the concerns of AAFA members before the public and all branches of government to advance the association's legislative, international trade and regulatory objectives." As well, AAFA seeks to ensure employees in the sewn products industry are treated with fairness, and seeks to create favorable conditions for the development and exchange of best practices and innovation.

Sewn Products Equipment & Suppliers of the Americas (SPESA), Raleigh, N.C., was organized in 1990 and represents more than 100 companies that supply the sewn products industry.

Yarn-Centered Advocacy

The American Yarn Spinners Association (AYSA), Gastonia, N.C., has more than 100 members representing more than 300 spinning, texturing, mercerizing and dyeing plants in the United States. The association maintains that its mission differs somewhat from broad-based textile associations because the marketing system for sales yarn is unique. Yarns are more custom-manufactured than many other textile products, according to the association; therefore, AYSA limits its role to opportunities and challenges specific to the yarn spinner. The organization does not become involved in broader textile issues except when it can "effectively complement or supplement" the efforts of other organizations.

The Textured Yarn Association of America (TYAA), Gastonia, N.C., has a mission of greater technological communication within the textured yarns industry. By updating test methods, TYAA encourages the development of active research and development programs within the industry. TYAA sponsors a number of technical projects managed by small committees and has semiannual meetings of its membership. In these meetings, the committees report to the membership at large.

The Broader Spectrum

In 2002, the Knitted Textile Association merged with the Northern Textile Association to form The National Textile Association (NTA), Boston. NTA represents more than 200 textile manufacturers and industry suppliers with operations in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The basic mission of the organization is to provide effective representation to government for fabric-forming companies and to promote the use of American fabrics for apparel, home furnishings, industrial and other markets.

The Association of Georgia's Textile, Carpet and Consumer Products Manufacturers (GTMA), Atlanta, is a statewide trade association that "represents Georgia's textile, carpet and consumer products manufacturers in legislative, regulatory and public relations matters." GTMA was founded in 1900 and provides resources to its members in the areas of human resources, fiber procurement, research, energy, health and safety, environmental issues and more. Affiliated with GTMA is The Textile Education Foundation Inc., which provides funding for scholarships, faculty support, research, recruitment, capital improvements, and machinery and equipment for the textile, carpet and consumer products programs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, and Southern Polytechnic State University, Marietta, Ga.

GTMA membership is open to businesses in Georgia engaged in spinning, weaving, dyeing, bleaching, finishing, knitting, braiding, creeling, sewing or other manufacturing operations of textiles, carpet and related consumer products.

Southern Textile Association’s (STA) 2002-03 officers (left to right): Russell Mims, second vice president; Lee Thomas, first vice president; Dan Nation, outgoing chairman of the board; Henry Surratt, chairman of the board; Larry Oates, president.

STA’s Board of Governor’s meeting, June 2002

Max Huntley (left) presents STA’s David Clark Award to Steve Dobbins

The Southern Textile Association Inc. (STA), Gastonia, S.C., provides its more than 600 members with the opportunity to network with peers to create opportunities and solve common challenges. Members are from virtually every sector of the textile industry, from yarn spinning to fabric finishing, including suppliers of fiber, machinery, replacement parts, dyes, chemicals and services. To localize activities and achieve its goals as much as possible, STA consists of three geographic divisions: South Carolina Division; Piedmont Division; and North Carolina/Virginia Division. Meetings are held each spring and fall, and also include an annual full-day winter seminar that focuses on providing members with timely information related to technology trends and manfacturing management. The assocation also holds a three-day annual meeting in June.

March 2003