RALEIGH, N.C. — Cotton Incorporated, the promotional arm of the nearly 35,000 U.S. cotton growers, has enlarged its Crabtree Valley research facility here to 4,000 square feet from 1,800 square feet. The $500,000 expansion and upgrade, which deals primarily with knitted fabrics, was part of Cotton Inc.’s 1993 $11.3 million research expenditure.
Included in the bigger space are new computer-aided design and manufacturing systems, and new equipment for testing cotton fiber strength, length, width and micronaire, a measure of the fineness and coarseness of the fiber.
The facility also has a scaled-down knitting plant, which can create knitted cotton fabrics in small lots for testing purposes.
Established in 1970, the research site also encompasses a lab for testing knitted fabrics, a fabric development center and a textile services laboratory. The operation is responsible for coordinating all of Cotton Inc.’s corporate research programs, which include those for agricultural applications, fiber quality and textile implementation.
“We have about 180 contracts with various firms for research right now,” said Hal Brockman, Cotton Inc.’s senior vice president and managing director for research, interviewed during a tour of the site for about 150 mill executives from the Southeast last Thursday.
“Last year, we sampled about 60,000 units [including fibers, fabrics and finished garments and other textile products], measuring them for various things. And with cotton gaining a greater share at retail, the move was necessary.”
He said Cotton Inc. investigated a number of expansion options before deciding on this one.
“Two stories in the building became available, so we took them. We’d actually been looking to expand for the past three or four years,” Brockman said. Cotton Inc. began the expansion program seven months ago.
In addition to its Crabtree facility, Cotton Inc. operates a 55,000-square-foot fiber and fabric processing center — primarily for wovens — and color services laboratory, also in Raleigh.
That facility was included on last week’s tour, which was attended by executives from Cone Mills, Burlington Industries and Parkdale Mills, among others, most of whom seemed enthusiastic about Cotton Inc.’s upgraded research and development services.
“We’ve worked extensively with Cotton Inc., looking at new applications for knitted and woven cotton fabrics,” said Roger Insley, Parkdale Mills’ corporate director of quality and research and development. “This facility shows that the association is much more than just promotion. They also do an excellent job of finding ways to make cotton fabrics better.”