American Textile Industry Shows New signs of Life

    09 February, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report.

    The textile and clothing industry in the United States is growing again after many years of decline. Many of the factories are competing against factories that pay low wages in countries like China.

    VOA visited the southern state of North Carolina. The textile industry there was once one of the most important businesses in the state. It has reinvented itself using technology and employing fewer people than before.

    Robots do most of the work at the National Spinning Company factory in Burlington, North Carolina. The factory dyes more than 110,000 kilograms of yarn every week in many different colors. The yarn is sent to clothing and furniture makers both in the U.S. and around the world.

    Michael Hankensen is one of only two workers who take care of the dye producing machines.

    "As you see, most of this is extremely heavy, cumbersome, and trying to move it around in the order that these robots do it, it would take an army of men to accomplish what these robots do," said Hankensen.

    Technology is helping the company compete with factories in other countries that pay workers only a few dollars a day. The National Spinning Company factory pays its 100 employees between $10 and $20 an hour.

    Ed Atkins manages the factory. He says it is important for the company to limit labor costs, but he says, it must also make high quality products, and he says, the company must provide good customer service to compete in the international market place.

    "We've diversified ourselves, looked for markets that depended on the quick response that you can provide from American-made products, little niche markets. I mean we don't try to compete in the generic cotton business or anything like that, because it's not where our strengths are," said Atkins.

    Deborah Wince-Smith is the president of the Council on Competitiveness, she says the textile industry must continue to develop technology.

    "Companies and enterprises are really bringing their core activities to where they have a skilled workforce, where they have innovation talent and where they're actually able to develop the next generation of innovation that drives manufacturing," said Wince-Smith.

    The textile industry has built 23 factories in the last three years, it has also increased its exports by 30 percent. To the surprise of many, the American textile industry is showing new signs of life.

    And that's the Technology Report from VOA Learning English. Have a question or comment about this show? Email us at For more of our programs, visit our website at We are also on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, iTunes and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm June Simms.