My textile roots took shape when I was in third grade, when I toured the Dan River Mills Plant in Danville, Virginia — my hometown. I got to touch the raw cotton piled high in the bins lining the plant floor. The plant manager described the process of growing cotton and how it takes root from a tiny seed. Many in my family worked for Dan River Mills, and during those days I witnessed how a successful textile plant could strengthen the economy.
My textile roots stayed with me and at the age of 25, I began working with Doug Coley in executive search recruiting for the textile, nonwoven and apparel industries. The United States textile industry was very different than when I toured Dan River Mills as a kid. We were living in a time where plant managers were trying to make strategic decisions about whether to move their operations overseas or to just close up shop.
It was the late 90’s and as a recruiter during this time, I would call candidates to explain that we were a recruiting firm working on filling positions in the textile industry. The person on the other end of the phone sounded like the wind had been taken out of their sails. People were trying to get out of the industry. We did not speak to many people who were wanting to remain in the textile industry. The textile industry lost a lot of good talent at that time.
And now, 16 years later, I am here to tell you that business is booming more than ever. The industry is coming back, but it is coming back anew. The U.S. customer wants goods made in America, and the cost of labor overseas is increasing. Today, we see high-tech equipment, highly skilled talent and more streamlined production.
Just yesterday, I was talking to a company that wants to open new plants in North and South Carolina, and they need help filling positions. We hear about new plants opening all the time.
Our clients are excited that business is growing. They want us to help find new talent for their specialized positions. In the same regard, foreign and U.S. companies call us as well, seeking help opening plants. We don’t sense the fear of the future when we speak with company executives; we sense optimism about an industry on the comeback.
I have witnessed the resiliency of the textile industry. We’ve come a long way since I fell in love with the industry as a girl. I’m proud of the changes that have taken place, and the growth we’ve seen. I’m happy to say that it is a great time to be in the textile, nonwoven and apparel industries. I am thrilled to be part of this industry and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
-Denise Elliott Davis