American & Efird, branded as A&E, is based in Mount Holly, N.C., with operations in 22 countries while Spartanburg is the global headquarters for Milliken & Co. and its 46 locations. U.S. Trade Rep. Katherine Tai visited the company’s Magnolia plant in Blacksburg near Cherokee County’s border with North Carolina.
The U.S. textile supply chain produced $64 billion in output in 2020 and employed nearly 530,000 workers, according to the National Council of Textile Operations, which said Tai’s visit came at a “pivotal time for the U.S. textile supply chain.” The industry has been at the forefront of a domestic production chain manufacturing more than a billion personal protective equipment items during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization said in a news release.
The organization is working to secure trade protections for the American textile industry, including a measure that would require certain critical health care supplies to come from domestic suppliers.
The ambassador’s visit to Milliken included a roundtable discussion highlighting the role women contribute to textiles, “the critical need for policies supporting a domestic supply chain, and the significant impact of the sector to the U.S. economy,” the news release said.
Tai discussed the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to increase two-way trade opportunities in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, according to the ambassador’s office.
“As United States trade representative, I am committed to helping all of your companies build on the success by finding market opportunities and helping reach new customers,” Tai said in the news release. “I want to ensure that our trade policy matches the innovation and changes happening in the textiles industry. With your help, we can continue addressing critical issues. In doing so, we will help the textiles industry maintain its competitive edge and ensure it remains a global standard-bearer in the years to come.”
Milliken is one of the largest textile companies in the U.S., employing more than 6,000 people domestically and an additional 1,350 globally. Milliken’s textile business employs 2,500 people across eight counties in South Carolina and is the fourth largest manufacturing employer in the Upstate, according to the company.
“Milliken is honored to host Ambassador Tai at our Magnolia plant to discuss not only the invaluable contributions we make every day to our community and our nation, but also the importance of sound trade policies that bolster domestic production and the co-production chains we have built, in particular with our Western Hemisphere trading partners,” Chad McAllister, executive vice president of Milliken & Co. and president of the company’s textile buisness, said in the release. “To have Ambassador Tai on site at one of our U.S. facilities is an opportunity to showcase our breadth of innovation in the industry and our passionate team of American workers who help our business succeed.”
Milliken & Co. has expanded over the years to include textile, flooring, specialty chemical and health care industry products.