From The Editor: Textiles: Making It In America

By Jim Borneman, Editor In Chief

It is common these days to hear of the demise of Made in the USA textiles and, for that matter, Made in the USA manufacturing. But there are wonderfully defiant companies — right here in the USA — that continue to buck the trend and ignore conventional wisdom.

This issue of Textile World features two examples of these wonderfully defiant companies — companies not just making it
in the USA, but succeeding at opposite ends of the textile spectrum.

Knitter and private-label apparel manufacturer FesslerUSA, tucked away in Pennsylvania’s Appalachian foothills, knits the majority of the fabrics used in its apparel. And there is much
more to the story — the company has embraced sustainability, works closely with brands and retailers and even provides design services. The FesslerUSA leadership — Walter, Bonnie and Brian Meck — would make for an interesting story no matter where they were located, but they are making it in the USA.

With a history that traces back 111 years, FesslerUSA is a story of change and adaptation. Whether it be developing a fabric sales business, focusing on high-end yarns or investing in flat
bed knitting, the company continues to focus on the future.

On the other end of the textile spectrum — although a spacesuit is apparel — is ILC Dover in Frederica, Del., which has been making innovative textile products for more than 60 years.

Yes, ILC still is making spacesuits for NASA and continues to have a protective garment business. But this issue of Textile World focuses on ILC’s development of inflatable textiles. The
company has been making blimps and airships for years — and for really interesting applications — but it is its inflatable wing applications that stand out in this story.

The technology is making a difference in creating unmanned, field-deployable aircraft that enter the field in a compact deflated form, but spring to life in a number of ways. ILC’s UAVs — unmanned aerial vehicles — are tough; have a long, useful life compared to some rigid competitors; and can be forgiving in the hands of a less skilled pilot. The wing technology is not new to ILC, as it was working on them in the 1970s, but the company reports material innovations are making better products a reality.

Speaking of high-tech materials, the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) Expo Americas is highlighted in the issue. This year, the expo will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center October 25-27. Aside from the 320-plus exhibitors, the expo will include a full slate of conferences, symposiums and demonstrations. In 2012, IFAI will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the show, which will be held in Boston.

At a time when all businesses are challenged, it is encouraging to observe some positive moves in textiles. Whether it be DAK Americas expanding its PET business, Specialty Textiles Inc.
(STI) adding 32,000 square feet and 62 jobs, or Patrick Yarn Mills adding a 140,000 kilowatt-hours-per-year solar power installation — these stories plucked from the pages of Textile
World demonstrate some of the positive news one rarely sees in a news environment seemingly obsessed with negativity.

There really is much, much more to the story.

September/October 2011