It pays to invest in Union County, in South Carolina, in the United States. Just ask Standard Textile and Marriott International.
For most of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, cotton was king in Union County. It was the mainstay of the local agriculture-based economy and the rural, agrarian society it shaped and supported
Beginning in the 1890s, however, a new king began to emerge when visionary businessman Thomas Carey Duncan and his supporters and like-minded counterparts in the local business community began building textile mills. Their efforts brought the Industrial Revolution to Union County, creating an increasingly industrial-based economy that spurred urbanization and the growth of the county’s municipalities and other communities.
As King Cotton faded as the 20th century progressed, King Textile flourished, becoming the dominant economic and even socio-cultural force in Union County as company towns centered around textile mills became the county’s defining feature.
When I moved to Union Country from Virginia in 1989, King Textile was still the reigning monarch here, but as the 1980s gave way to the 1990s that began to change as a series of free trade agreements set in motion an exodus of industries and jobs from America to countries like Mexico, China, and India.
The textile industry was hard hit by this and Union County was also hit hard as textile mill after textile mill closed their doors, some of them even being demolished.
The Industrial Revolution began in England, but it was in America that it truly took flight, transforming this nation into the world’s first true superpower and creating an economy that provided employment, opportunity and prosperity for millions of working men and women and their families.
In the 1990s, however, the gains of that revolution began to be reversed with what was for all intents and purposes a De-Industrial Revolution that increasingly stripped America of its manufacturing base, including but not limited to the textile industry.
Investing in America, in states like South Carolina, in communities like Union County, became a losing proposition and any company that did it would soon be out of business.
Standard Textile, however, apparently didn’t get the memo because not only did they invest in Union County, they’ve continued to invest in it and are reaping the rewards of those investments.
Last Thursday, the Standard Textile plant at 100 Highpoint Drive in Union, was the site of a press conference attended by Gary Heiman, president and CEO of Standard Textile; J.W. “Bill Marriott, executive chairman of Marriott International; and S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt.
They, along with representatives of local governments and the local business community, were there to announce that Marriott International had launched its “Made in USA” program of distributing towels and bath mats made at Standard Textile plants in America to approximately 3,000 hotels across the country.
A press release stated that Marriott International’s commitment will mean the annual production of 2.6 million bath towels and 4.9 million hand towels — the equivalent of 5.6 million pounds of textiles.
As a result of Marriott International’s “Made in USA” commitment, 150 new jobs will be created including 65 at the Standard Textile plant in Union County. That’s good news for this county and a sign that Standard Textile’s decision to swim against the tide and invest here was the right one.
Standard Textile acquired the Highpoint Drive facility in 2004 and, as Heiman pointed out during the press conference, modified, modernize and expanded it into the “very successful plant it is today” that is “really making an impact on the community.”
In his remarks, Hitt pointed out that Standard Textile’s investment in its Union County facility has continued, most recently in 2014 when the company announced a $5 million expansion that created 35 new jobs. And now, it is about to create another 65 new jobs.
Standard Textile saw this county’s potential when it purchased the Highpoint Drive facility and has continued to invest in it in the 12 years since, making it an important presence in the local economy and rebuilding its manufacturing base. Marriott International saw this too which is why its “Made in USA” not only continues the partnership it began with Standard Textile in 1990, but is further indication of Standard Textile’s decision to invest in Union County.
As a community, we have have strived over the past quarter century to be welcoming and supportive of both new and existing industry. The new jobs being created as a result of the “Made in USA” campaign are another example of the wisdom of such an effort.
Standard Textile is a sign that the textile industry is not done here in Union County and could perhaps even undergo a resurgence as, hopefully, more American companies — textiles and otherwise — realize that making/building things in America is the best investment they can ever make.
Charles Warner is a staff writer for The Union Daily Times and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.