What Is Your Future In Textiles?

inning in today’s marketplace isn’t easy, and it is full of obstacles — but for many it
is happening. Innovation in the way companies are managed, in understanding markets and in a
company’s relationship to the global marketplace is making a difference. It is the future. “
Smaller,” “ leaner,”and “innovative” keep coming up as adjectives to describe the future of the US
textile industry.

The nagging debate over China, the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and trade
in general is a major distraction from building strategies that deal with the inevitable changes
facing the US industry. While many wait for an outcome of trade issues, others insist this is a
lingering process that will bump along until 2008, when it would appear all bets will be off and no
safeguard process will be left to affect trade with China. Then the full impact of China on the
US-CAFTA region will be felt. The focus quickly will shift to abolishing tariffs around the globe —
the next trade battleground.

One North American manufacturer said recently that sooner or later business is going to be
about leading companies competing and collaborating on a global scale — and not about the economic
wrangling associated with trade fairness.

For some, true open markets are a scary thought; for others, wishful thinking; and still
others say it can never happen because of discrepancies in wage, environment and currency issues.
Regardless of who is right, winning companies are embracing the future and moving forward without

At some point, the doom and gloom gets pretty old. It can’t be allowed to overshadow those
who are engaged, moving forward and finding their way through challenging times. At the recent
VESTEX show in Guatemala, the majority of US companies had positive things to say about their
businesses and about the future — they were there, looking for business and looking for partners.

At ShanghaiTex, with seven buildings, 100,000 square meters of machinery and 35,000
attendees on the first day, machinery producers spoke of slowing Chinese investment in equipment.
Three buildings of China-produced equipment drew interest as producers quietly spoke of Chinese
machinery rivaling well-known global producers at “85 percent of the technology and 35 to 40
percent of the price.”

It is apparent the change afoot affects more than manufacturers — it is impacting the entire
supply chain. One leading machinery manufacturer said he has been working in China for more than 25
years and his focus is, Where is the next China? Uzbekistan? Russia? India? For him, the next
opportunity is the future.

By many accounts, the Techtextil show in Frankfurt was a great success, showing the dynamics
of change that have flowed into the nonwovens and technical textiles marketplace.

As the world gets smaller, markets widen and competition increases, US competitiveness will
continue to be challenged — fairly or unfairly. Understanding the marketplace, using marketing to
lead product development, building brands and value that compete for global recognition — those who
get it will win, and win for the long run.

July/August 2005