Byline: Marilyn Nason

HICKORY, N.C. — North Carolina’s legwear makers are out to get a firm grasp on the future.
Members of the Catawba Valley Hosiery Association and the National Association of Hosiery Manufacturers met here earlier this month to analyze a study of the future of the state’s legwear industry. Executives of 31 hosiery firms participated.
The meeting was seen as leading to action to solidify the industry’s position globally.
The state’s hosiery industry, which generates annual sales of nearly $2.9 billion and employs more than 38,000, has been officially designated by North Carolina a pilot industry to receive help from private and public agencies to develop and implement competitive strategies.
“Our industry has recognized it is in a state of flux,” noted Tony Whitener, president of Red Hill Hosiery Mill here, and chairman of the CVHA’s Hosiery Industry Advisory Board.
“We are moving into an area of unknowns requiring expertise with which we have little or no experience. We know how to make socks and buy the machinery and materials to do this, but we now need to seek out resources in those areas of expertise that will take us competitively into the next century as the continuing leader of the nation’s hosiery industry.”
The report generated from the survey, “Preserving Hosiery Manufacturing in North Carolina,” identified critical needs for improvement, mainly, more efficient use of technology to expand output, reduced labor costs and development of new and existing domestic and global markets.
The report suggested the industry strengthen relations with private and public state and regional groups that have access to technology and expertise in fields ranging from export marketing to workforce training, improve the scope and efficiency of the CVHA’s Hosiery Technology Center here and identify incentives that will make investment in technology financially feasible for more manufacturers.
The report also suggested:
* A shift to a knit-to-order industry that would track goods by computer and share engineering services.
* Manufacturing alliances or networks to cooperatively serve markets.
* New technologies to fill voids, particularly in dyeing and finishing, and addition of a full-time dyeing and finishing manager at the Hosiery Technology Center.
* Targeting needed research and development areas, particularly in product handling.
CVHA members will meet in coming months in closed workshops with government officials and representatives of private agencies to explore the services available, and will compile a directory of those resources for North Carolina hosiery executives.

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