It’s been a tough year for American textile companies, especially those with operations in North Carolina. Earlier this year, Cone Mills announced they were closing their historic White Oak facilities, and Parkdale Mills decided to shutter their Williamston plant. Now, it looks like National Spinning Company is shutting down their operations in eastern North Carolina.
For almost a hundred years, National Spinning was one of the companies involved in Levi’s supply chain. Raw cotton fibers were spun here and turned into yarn, which were then either dyed or left raw. Those spools were then sent to places such as Cone Mills for weaving, which is how we get fabric. And, of course, up the chain are cutters and sewers who then turn fabric into our beloved jeans.
The North Carolina business journal announcing the closure says little besides that this is a strategic move to cut excess capacity. It’s hard not to imagine, however, that these closures are related to the general squeezing of the middle of the market. As brands such as J. Crew and Levi’s have had to cut costs in order to compete with fast fashion companies, American textile firms have found themselves with less business. That means shutting down US textile weaving mills and the spinners who supplied them.
Michael Hicks, an economics professor at Ball State University, says North Carolina’s decline in manufacturing is part of a bigger shift from being a producer of traditional textiles and tobacco to high-tech manufacturing, which “requires fewer workers, but more highly skilled positions.” Indeed, the New York Times had an article a couple of years ago about how when textile plants reshore from China to North Carolina, job creation is minimal since most of the work is done by robots. National Spinning Company also automated a lot of its work, but the savings in labor costs apparently weren’t enough. The plant’s closure will result in 152 job losses by the end of the year.
(thanks to Danny for the tip)