By Rachael S. Davis, Executive Editor
The Atlanta-based Americas Apparel Producers’ Network (AAPN) is always open to new ideas for events. If it hasn’t been done before, no matter. AAPN urges its members to think outside of the box and submit event ideas. The association considers three criteria when planning events — Is it unique? Would it be fun and make a difference? Is it possible?
That encouragement was behind the idea for one recent AAPN event. Jesus Canahuati, Elcatex; Joe Cuervo, Kohls; Juan Zighelboim, TexOps; and AAPN’s Executive Director Sue Strickland got together to discuss an event that could showcase new investments taking place in Honduras, and the Apparel Summit of the Americas 2018 was born. According to AAPN’s Managing Director Mike Todaro, the event involved more planning, logistics and people than any previous event in AAPN’s 37-year history. But the event was considered a success, so much so that AAPN plans to make it a biennial event.
The 2018 event featured a combination of conference speakers and tours of local production facilities. One tour highlight was UTEXA (United Textiles of America), a brand new man-made fiber spinning plant (See sidebar).
“It was very meaningful for us in Honduras that AAPN chose San Pedro Sula to hold the Apparel Summit of the Americas,” said Mario Canahuati, president, Asociación Hondureña de Maquiladores (AHM), the Honduras Manufacturers Association. “It was a remarkable success for AAPN and an opportunity to showcase the progress, the investment and diversification that is taking place in the industry in Honduras, which — as well as other countries in the region — has a history of solid partnership with many of the companies that participated in the event.”
The summit attracted 250 AAPN members and prospective members from 125 organizations. Executives from 18 brands and retailers participated in the event to see firsthand the investments taking place in the Honduran textile industry. In addition, more than 40 volunteers from AAPN member companies and local organizations contributed to the event’s success.
The Apparel Summit of the Americas kicked off with an opening night reception at the Intercontinental Hotel.
On the first full day of activities, Jesus Canahuati, president of Elcatex, opened the conference held at the Copantl Convention Center. Canahuati touted Honduras as the number-one global destination for U.S. yarn exports, which amount to $1 billion annually. The country also is the number one country of origin for U.S. imports of cotton T-shirts and sweatshirts. Current strategic investments in the Honduran textile industry focus on man-made knits and other activewear.
Other speakers on the first morning included Mike Todaro, AAPN managing director; Tony Anzovino, AAPN president and chief sourcing and merchandising officer for Haggar Clothing Co.; and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández who participated in the conference via a video. In addition, a panel discussion — featuring Steve Cochran, CEO, Tegra Global; Ricardo Pettenati, CEO, Pettenati Industrias Textil; and David Ha, CEO, TexOps — focused on investment and innovation in the Americas as told through first-hand experiences. The panel was moderated by Walter Wilhelm, CEO, WWA Advisors.
Simon Mainwaring, founder of We First, a brand and leadership consulting firm, gave the keynote speech. His engaging presentation focused on purpose-based branding.
Following lunch, summit attendees boarded buses to tour local textile production facilities (See Table 1). One tour took participants to UTEXA, Honduras Green Energy and the Villas San Juan Housing project; while a second tour featured Finotex Honduras and Coats Group’s finishing and dyeing facilities.
In the evening, attendees were treated to a cocktail reception sponsored by UTEXA; a fashion show featuring activewear produced by AAPN members based in the region; and dinner sponsored by FICOHSA at the Club Hondureño Arabe.
The second full day of activities began with more organized plant tours. Attendees chose from visits to Genesis Apparel S.A., Elcatex’s textile mill and Stretchline Central America S.A.; or a trip to Grupo Karim’s spinning facility.
The conference program picked back up that afternoon. Prior to the first presentation, Todaro presented the AAPN Apparel Industry Leadership Award — created to recognize AAPN members who have contributed exceptional leadership to the organization — to two individuals.
Jesus Canahuati, general manager, Elcatex, was recognized because “… [he] presented Honduras2020 to the AAPN Annual Conference. This led directly to a joint venture of the UTEXA spinning operation and the 2018 Apparel Summit of the Americas. [He] has distinguished himself as a true leader of the Americas.”
Industry veteran Joe Cuervo was the recipient of the second award. According to AAPN, “Joe began work in 2017 with AAPN on the 2018 Apparel Summit of the Americas during his time on staff at Honduras2020. Joe helped put together the agendas, tours, target lists, hotels, logistics and hundreds of other details. The summit success was virtually from his leadership.”
Ed Gribbin, CEO, Gribbin Strategic LLC, and senior advisor to Alvanon, focused on trends and changing consumer values leading to changes in the fashion industry in his “Leveraging the Americas … it’s more than just geography,” presentation. Kurt Cavano, founder and president, GT Nexus (an Infor Co.), followed with his presentation entitled, “Disruptopia: An Overview of the Speed of Technology.” In closing, attendees were given a chance to talk about the event and voice their impressions.
“The 20/20 summit was an eye-opening event,” said one participant. “It’s exciting to see the heavy investment that companies are pumping into Honduras. The tour of the energy park and housing projects, Utexa’s state of the art facility gave us more confidence to continue focusing our presence in Central America.”
“I was excited to be part of the AAPN Honduras events which highlighted how companies are investing in region and looking toward the future,” said Greg Dorf, director of Global Sales, Indiana Knitwear. “What made this event different for me was having the opportunity to tour Utexa and the energy plant. I gained some great insights into the Utexa facility and how the spinning process works. It was also nice to learn about how the energy plant generates it power to support the manufacturing process.”
“This was the hardest event that AAPN has done, and hopefully, people will be talking about it for years,” Todaro said. At least until 2020 anyway, when AAPN hosts its next Apparel Summit of the Americas and gives the apparel industry another unique event to talk about.
UTEXA — Man-Made Yarn Investment
Honduras-based UTEXA is a new $73 million man-made yarn company that began operations in 2018. Founded with the goal of bringing enhanced competitiveness to the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) region, UTEXA was made possible through the combined vision and efforts of its investors, market opportunities and the Honduras 2020 country development program — a private sector initiative complemented by the public sector that was developed to grow the country both socially and economically.
The CAFTA-DR region is again experiencing tremendous growth and opportunity in the textile and apparel sector, much like the initial growth that was experienced following CAFTA-DR’s passage in 2005. However, unlike the initial boom, current now is largely driven not by low-cost production, but by speed-to-market and the availability of value-added products.
UTEXA is one of the most advanced man-made yarn production facilities in the world, featuring all new modern manufacturing equipment designed for highly efficient and flexible production. By expanding the available product range and lowering raw material input costs for the region, UTEXA has given additional incentive to enhance sourcing and near shore strategies within the CAFTA-DR region.
UTEXA tours were a highlight of the Apparel Summit of the Americas. AAPN and Honduras Manufacturers Association came together to maximize synergies and gave UTEXA a tremendous opportunity to showcase a world class yarn operation to some of the most important textile executives in the CAFTA region.
— Eric Joo, General Director, UTEXA