Local News

Textile Industries Struggling In N.C., U.S. Markets

Posted November 16, 2001 9:34 a.m. EST

— America has made a lot of deals with countries to gain support for our war on terrorism. Some of those deals could really hit home, especially in the already struggling textile industry.

Virginia Varden has worked at the VF sewing plant in Lillington for four decades, but she, along with 234 co-workers, will lose their jobs as part of a company-wide restructuring.

"It just means part of my life has passed away," she said.

Meanwhile, Burlington Industries has announced that it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The textile giant employs hundreds at plants in Raeford, Mount Olive, Graham, Burlington and Rocky Mount. R.L. Stowe also announced it may have to close its Mebane facility, where 130 people work.

Experts say employees in the United States are losing out to cheaper foreign labor and to diplomats using the textile industry as a bargaining chip in international relations, including right now in Pakistan.

Blanton Godfrey, dean of N.C. State's College of Textiles, said textile industries must move into high-tech textiles and apparel, where foreign manufacturers have trouble competing.

"We can compete with the American workers. We can compete with American technology, and we can compete with the people coming out of the colleges," he said.