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North Carolina Manufacturing is Supporting an Economy Built to Last

Sanchez tours manufacturing plant in North Carolina

Guest blog post by Francisco J. SánchezUnder Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Good things are happening here in North Carolina.  

Today, I’ve had the pleasure of spending some time in the Tar Heel state, visiting companies, meeting with business and community leaders, and seeing up close just how a thriving manufacturing sector is positively impacting jobs and the economy.

The morning began with a tour of Parkdale Mills, a yarn company that was founded nearly a century ago with one mill and less than 200 employees.

In the years since—despite all the changes that have occurred in the industry—Parkdale has done more than survived. It’s thrived. The numbers are staggering.The company now employs more than 4,400 workers in plant locations stretching from North Carolina to Georgia to Virginia. And, a good number of these workers were hired in just the last two years. According to the company, it is now the leading producer of spun yarn—in the world.

Want even better news? The Parkdale Mills success story is part of a larger trend. Encouraging signs have developed in the manufacturing sector. 334,000 manufacturing jobs have been created in the last two years.  Profits are up.  Productivity is up.

These are important developments. Historically, manufacturing has been a backbone of our economy. It’s helped build the middle class. And, it should be an important part of the economy moving forward.

That’s why Secretary John Bryson has made supporting advanced manufacturing one of his top priorities. It’s also why President Obama—in his State of the Union Address—said that creating a new era of American manufacturing was a key part of his blueprint for an economy built to last.

He stressed this point in his speech yesterday, saying “we have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back.  But we have to seize it.”

To make this happen, the president proposed to stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, and to start rewarding those that bring jobs back home. He also talked about the need to give young people and workers the skills they need to succeed in this 21st century economy.

I saw up close just how important this education is when I visited North Carolina State University’s College of Textiles this afternoon.

Some people still think that textiles are all about shirts, carpets and draperies. But, they are so much more. For example, the new nonwovens filter pilot plant I visited today is focused on making our air and water cleaner. NC State is also working with industry partners to develop advanced textiles, which are being used in industries from aerospace to transportation.

This work is critical because it leads to jobs. In North Carolina, the textile and apparel industry employed roughly 48,000 people in 2010. This represents 11 percent of North Carolina’s manufacturing jobs. Today, I was able to see all the work and innovation that’s behind these numbers.

The growth of Parkdale Mills is creating jobs and strengthening communities.

The College of Textiles is preparing young people for future success. It’s also ensuring that businesses here in North Carolina—and beyond—are producing cutting-edge products.

And, as head of the International Trade Administration, I pledged to do all we can to help sell U.S. goods and services to markets all over the world.

Doing so will go a long way in supporting an economy built to last.

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