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Advanced Manufacturing Drives Charlotte USA Business Boom

The Charlotte USA Region is attracting investment in manufacturing innovation.

By Cary Estes on August 4, 2014

Charlotte, NC
Charlotte / Michael Conti

The Carolinas’ reputation as a leader in textile manufacturing had almost faded away, but a resurgence in that sector mirrors overall growth in advanced manufacturing across the region. Gildan’s investment in new yarn-spinning facilities in Charlotte USA reflects the need to build up-to-date facilities in addition to repurposing existing textile factories, says Chuck Ward, vice president of yarn spinning. 

Gildan, a leading supplier of branded basic family apparel, invested $50 million to purchase a Rowan County, N.C., industrial building in December 2012 and then will build a production facility next to its existing one to house its high-tech yarn-spinning operations. This $130 million investment will create more than 180 jobs. Gildan’s new yarn-spinning facilities could have been built literally anywhere in the world, but the company chose Charlotte USA for three reasons.

“We looked for a qualified textile workforce, competitive energy rates and a good transportation network,” Ward says.

In addition, the company buys yarn made from cotton grown across the Southeast, part of the supply chain ecosystem created by the company’s expansion, including experienced contractors erecting the new facilities.

“The impact is not only in the jobs we create directly, but also all the contractors and supplier jobs from cotton to yarn tubes,” Ward says.

Growing technological capabilities that leverage the region’s highly skilled workforce and abundance of resources are transforming industries and opening up new markets and opportunities. Since 2011, approximately 160 manufacturing companies have either located to or expanded in the region, creating nearly 6,000 jobs. Those companies are drawn by the region’s highly skilled labor pool with specialized skills, including expertise in such areas a precision metrology and optoelectronics.

In Chernaw, S.C., Highland Industries invested $4.1 million to expand its textile facility. That will add about two dozen jobs to the workforce, which makes a variety of technical fabrics, including the material for automobile airbags, says Plant Manager Evans Tindal. The company specializes in custom fabrics including military tents and backpacks, roofing products, and aerospace applications. Founded in the 1880s as a textile manufacturer, today ShurTape, a Catawba County, N.C.-based company, has grown organically and through acquisitions to become a leading developer and manufacturer of adhesive products serving a variety of markets, from painting and packaging to HVAC and transportation.

Geared for Growth

Other industry sectors are also growing, from 3-D printers to furniture to automotive and aerospace components.

HSM Solutions got its start in 1944 manufacturing springs for the bedding industry. Two years ago, the company reorganized along customer sectors and launched an innovation initiative. The company opened a corporate Innovation and Technology Center and a foam research center in Conover in Catawba County, N.C., as well as expanded a manufacturing facility in Hickory, N.C., says Dwayne Welch, executive vice president and chief marketing and innovation officer. In addition to furniture, the company is expanding products and solutions for transportation, bedding, health care and other sectors.

“We’re keeping the legacy and heritage of the company intact, but we’re defining a clear path to position the company to be stronger for the next 70 years,” Welch says.

Those companies are drawn by the region’s highly skilled labor pool with specialized skills, including expertise in such areas as precision metrology and optoelectronics. The area is attracting foreign investment as well. JN Fiber, a Chinese-based manufacturer of recycled polyester staple fiber products, invested $45 million to establish a manufacturing facility in Chester County, S.C., that will create 318 jobs. The facility recycles discarded soda and water bottles and transforms them into recycled polyester staple fibers for use in the home textiles, furniture, upholstery and automotive industries.

Greenheck Fan Corp. invested $30 million in a new Shelby plant in Cleveland County, N.C., that will create 184 jobs for the company that makes air movement and control equipment. These are new jobs for the region, in addition to the 116 employees the company employs at its manufacturing plant in Kings Mountain, N.C. The manufacturing renaissance is a good indicator of the local business climate.

“We look at this region as an extremely proactive and business-friendly environment for manufacturing,” Welch says.

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