©Carolinatextiledistrict

In practice

Carolina Textile District, an industry cooperative, USA

Summary

North Carolina, USA —

. Carolina Textile District (CTD) is an industry cooperative aspiring to revitalise the textile industry in the United States of America by creating quality products, generating valuable jobs, building local communities and providing a sustainable system of production that can be mainstreamed worldwide.

. The Carolina Textile District operates as regional network that includes designers/patternmakers, printers, fabric finishers, material sources, cut and sew facilities, and fulfilment contacts. CTD’s network strives to connect entrepreneurs who are interested in producing products through a local supply chain, with the domestic textile companies

. Bringing people together and joining forces through industry cooperatives to ”be big by being small together” allows for stronger local markets while partnering with other local enterprises can create alliances that allow for more ethical and sustainable futures.

Published on the 05/01/2024

KeywordsSocial and solidarity economy, Economic and community development, Social innovation, Place-based revitalisation, Skills shortages/mismatches, Labour shortages, Innovation,

Geographic scaleCity / metropolitan area

CountryUnited States

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What are the objectives?

Textile manufacturing has been a historical driver of North Carolina’s economy since the early 1800s, and it was long considered a global leader. However, the industry faced significant challenges starting in the second half of the 20th century, as it faced growing competition from offshore producers. .

Carolina Textile District was created in 2013 to help revitalise the local textile industry. It aims to create a reliable American textile supply chain by connecting and supporting textile makers, designers and entrepreneurs. It focuses on creating quality products, generating good jobs, building local communities and providing a sustainable, economic and socially ethical system of production that can be mainstreamed worldwide.

How does it work in practice?

The Carolina Textile District is one of many enterprises born out of The Industrial Commons. The Industrial Commons incubates and supports employee-owned social enterprises and industrial cooperatives in Western North Carolina through a combination of support such as a capital loan fund and workforce development and training programs.

The Carolina Textile District operates as a regional network that includes designers, patternmakers, printers, fabric finishers, material sources, cut and sew facilities, and fulfilment contacts. CTD’s network strives to connect entrepreneurs who are interested in producing products through a local supply chain with domestic textile companies to ensure a value-based process that is economically, environmentally, and socially ethical. Additionally, CTD provides a range of resources to educate entrepreneurs and manufacturers, as well as the following specific services:

●. Qualified Sourcing: CTD offers two sourcing options, the first is CTD’s Sewn Goods 101 Workshop which provides clients and manufacturers access to 3,500+ material samples and teaches participants how to source materials. The second is a qualified sourcing option where CTD compiles a list of domestic sources based on the enterprise’s specifications i.e. content, weight, composition etc.

●. Find-a-Fit: CTD specialists connect companies or start-ups with qualified designers, patternmakers, printers or contractible cut and sew facilities, while ensuring that their business plan is respected, i.e. styles, prices, timing etc.

●. Mill Network: For companies that are scaling up and looking for high volume units, the mill network provides the facilities and services to meet the requirements of larger contracts.

Additionally, CTD provides a series of hands-on workshops both in person and online to support the creation and continuity of the textile industry in North Carolina. The workshops accompany individuals and companies at different stages of their textile development profession:

●. The Industrial Sewing Program equips trainees with the skills they need to operate industrial sewing machines to prepare for a career in the sewn trades or for making their own product.

●. Sewn Goods 101 teaches entrepreneurs the production process step by step for how to get their sewn product made in the United States.

●. The Crafted Production workshop provides a detailed overview about how to open your own crafted production cut and sew factory.

What has been the impact?

●. Since creation in 2008, TIC and CTD networks have grown, showcasing the value in such enterprises and business models. The broader network TIC now includes 5 cooperative businesses, and over 150 workers in the co-ops. CTD specifically has 25 mills representing 2,500 workers and is partnering with Material Return (another TIC enterprise) to pioneer the U.S. circular economy by transforming textile waste into new raw material streams.

●. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Carolina Textile District secured a contract with the state of North Carolina to produce masks and gowns. CTD created the tech packs, sourced the materials, and coordinated 60 mills to produce over 700,000 masks and gowns. This project injected $4M into our region to keep people working during the international crisis.

●. CTD’s training programs are increasing skills in their local communities.

o. The Industrial Sewing Program and Furniture Upholstery Program train 75 workers annually.

o. Over 45 entrepreneurs participate in the various CTD workshops (e.g Sewn Goods, Crafted Production, etc.) annually.

o. CTD encourages youth to get involved in the textile trade by hosting alternative spring break immersion trips for university students and summer camps for local middle and high school students.

o. CTD has supported over 675 entrepreneurs with connections to manufacturers, sourcing assistance, and educational workshops about the manufacturing supply chain

●. TIC and CTD hopes to make a greater impact in the future by growing the network to support 100 businesses representing 10,000 workers by 2030.

What can other communities learn from this example?

1. Taking a local perspective and embracing regional assets, communities and populations can support local economic development.

2. Joining forces through industry cooperatives to :be big by being small together” can help develop stronger local markets and partnering with other local enterprises can create alliances that allow for more ethical and sustainable futures.

3. Encouraging community well-being and worker empowerment through trainings can support the pursuit of sustainable, equitable, and thriving industries.

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