SPENDING MORE IN '94: A new Commerce Department report said textile manufacturers surveyed in April and May indicated they expect to spend an average of 7.4 percent more on plant and equipment in 1994 than they did in 1993.

The report said an estimated $2.44 billion would be spent on plant and equipment this year, versus $2.27 billion in 1993.

The figure is also up from a poll taken in January, February and March, when textile producers forecast an increase of only 3.9 percent in plant and equipment spending this year.

"Things in the industry were a little bit slow toward the end of last year, but new orders and shipments picked up significantly, so you can see how the second-quarter survey would reflect those improved conditions," said David Link, chief economist with the American Textile Manufacturers Association.

Manufacturers probably also are feeling the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect Jan. 1, Link said, adding that NAFTA's tariff reductions have spurred textile exports to Mexico.

MORE BASF PHASEOUTS: BASF Corp. will phase out production of nylon hosiery yarn and nylon staple fibers for carpet at its Lowland, Tenn., plant by mid-August, the company said. There are now 316 employees at the plant. Virtually all will be affected by the shutdown.

"The decision to close the operation was based on several years of unprofitability at Lowland, along with a detailed study of market conditions," said Werner Burgert, president of BASF's fiber products division.

BASF said it will continue to supply certain nylon hosiery yarns and staple fibers for carpet from its plants at Anderson, S.C.

Although BASF wouldn't divulge fiber capacities at specific sites, a spokeswoman confirmed that the company produces about 165 million pounds of nylon staple and some 60 million pounds of textile filament nylon, which includes nylon hosiery yarn.

The company also said it will continue to operate the polyester chip, nylon polymer and bicomponent businesses at Lowland. These operations employ slightly more than 400.

The most recent fiber phaseout at Lowland is the third in the last two years there by BASF. BASF acquired the plant when it purchased American Enka Co. in 1985.In July 1992, BASF sold its rayon business there to Lenzing Fibers Corp., and, as reported, it will stop polyester filament production there by the end of this month.

ATMI'S GLOBAL THINKING: The president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute has urged the domestic textile industry to "think globally and make a commitment to exporting a certain percentage of production each year."

Addressing the Southern Textile Association at its annual meeting at Hilton Head Island, S.C., William J. Armfield 4th, vice chairman of Unifi, told the group, "We need to think of our business as it relates to the way we market our products from a global standpoint. For the textile industry to be profitable, we need to be the best that we can be around the world."

Armfield told the 415 or so gathered at the Hyatt Hotel in Hilton Head that the U.S. textile industry "can compete with anybody."

He urged the industry to introduce intense research efforts, emphasize education and be proactive on environmental and safety issues.

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