Posts Tagged ‘Textiles’

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Spotlight on Commerce: Kim Glas, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials, International Trade Administration

March 26, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Kim Glas is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials in the International Trade Administration.

Kim Glas is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials in the International Trade Administration.

Serving as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials, my job is to improve the domestic and international competitiveness of the broad product range of U.S. textiles, footwear, consumer goods, metals and mining, forest products, and chemicals and plastics manufacturing sectors and industries. This position requires strong negotiation and problem-solving skills and the ability to work with a broad array of stakeholders with divergent opinions in order to find solutions on a whole host of issues.

Over the last 3 years, I have spent significant time at the negotiating table for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement to ensure opportunities under the agreement for U.S. textile and footwear producers. I coordinate within the ITA and across agencies to ensure we can deliver results for companies and the workers they employ. While the job has been challenging, it has been an incredibly rewarding opportunity. I have worked with top-notch staff across the Department and in the Administration who are driven to expanding opportunities for U.S. industries and workers.

Having worked in two Administrations and on Capitol Hill, I have always been driven by a mission to serve the American people and have been fortunate to do so throughout my career. Growing up, my parents, extended family, teachers, and mentors were incredibly supportive of me and instilled in me to work hard, serve others, and have a strong sense of self. I grew up in the close-knit community of Lockport, NY located near Buffalo during a time when many industries in the area were facing enormous economic hardships. Layoffs all too often were the front page news of the local paper. My high school experience reflected what was happening in the community – and I knew that I wanted to make it better.

When I went to college at the State University of New York at Geneseo, I thought I would serve my community by becoming a social studies teacher. The trajectory of my life changed when I took a history class with Dr. Bill Cook. As a grade conscious student, I knew taking a class with him all but assured I would not graduate at the top of my class – but I didn’t care. He brought history to life and connected it to our modern day political structure. When he ran for Congress in a campaign destined to lose, I followed him and decided I didn’t want to teach about government, I wanted to be an active participant in it. I believed in the community I grew up in and communities like it across the country and knew I wanted to serve.

The main driver of my career success has been the people I have met along the way. They are the reason I do what I do. They will continue to be my sense of purpose going forward. To understand yourself and the people around you, gives you an appreciation for those who share different perspectives or share common motivations.

I have always admired my distant cousin Amelia Earhart who pushed herself to soar above the clouds in unchartered territory and in doing so, broke the barriers of history. She once said, “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do.” Seize the moment, push the envelope, know yourself, and never forget where you came from or the people on whose shoulders you stand.

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U.S. Sock Maker Pedals Through Trials to Reach Global Markets

July 31, 2012

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Doug Barry is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the Trade Information Center, U.S. Commercial Service within the International Trade Administration.

Shane Cooper is president of DeFeet International, a maker of cycling and other socks in Charlotte, North Carolina.  He’s a client of the Charlotte Export Assistance Center.  Over the years and despite substantial adversity, he has built the business that now includes distributors in 35 countries.  I chatted with him during his trip to Washington to receive the Presidential “E” Award for excellence in exporting.

Barry:  Tell us what you make and how DeFeet started.  Where did you get the idea?

Gerd Klose, Managing Director of DeFeet's distributor in Germany Lynn Moretz, VP International Sales and Shane Cooper, founder of DeFeet display their products during the Eurobike show in Friedrichshafen, Germany. (Photo DeFeet)

Gerd Klose, Managing Director of DeFeet’s distributor in Germany Lynn Moretz, VP International Sales and Shane Cooper, founder of DeFeet display their products during the Eurobike show in Friedrichshafen, Germany. (Photo DeFeet)

Cooper:  My wife and I were bike racers back in the early ’90s.  And in the summertime, she was supplementing her income by racing bikes as an amateur and I was spending her supplemental income as an amateur on my bike racing.  And my father was a sock knitting machine technician and sold the parts.  And so I grew up in the sock industry.  And I was a cyclist.  One day, I decided to make socks to pay for my racing.  It just kind of happened from there.  We made the world’s best sock for cycling and that was 20 years ago.

Barry:  Is that a pair of your socks on your feet?

Cooper:  Absolutely.  This is the Peloton, made of merino wool.  And if you notice, there’s a group of cyclists.  And the yellow jersey’s right there. And “peloton” is a group of cyclists.

Barry:  Tell us your biggest challenge in going international.  You had this great background and created the product.  But very few U.S. businesses go outside the country looking for customers.

Cooper:  It happened by chance.  We created product that world-class cyclists were taking over to Europe.  And we had this product on their feet.  So there was a desire from the customer before we had international distribution.  And so our brand grew from there.  Cycling in Europe is tremendous in size, similar to American baseball and football.  I was struggling myself, not being a true businessman.  And I met this wonderful man, Lynn Moretz, who came into our company and became my mentor and helped us capitalize on this desire that we had created as a brand into a real business.  And so Lynn was able to take it into these countries and give structure behind the madness that I had created.

Barry:  Your product was transported by your U.S. customers and introduced to potential international buyers to where it really became a process and a strategy.

Copper:  Yeah, process and strategy, pricing structures, the advent of the Internet and what was going to play there and how it was going to actually work and these international customers over the course of the last 20 years were coming to our website, finding the product and going, “where can I get it”?  They would see it on the best riders in the world.  And they’re asking where they could get it.  I was too busy paying attention to R&D and the product to really focus on that.  And then Lynn came in and provided that structure to actually make it happen.

Barry:  What in your mind was the biggest challenge that you overcame and that your collaborator overcame in that area?

Cooper:  Well, unfortunately the year that my collaborator, Lynn Moretz, came to DeFeet, we burned down.  We lost everything we had – 2001, October, right after 9/11.  And so we had nine months of no production.

Barry:  That would be a crushing thing to happen for most people.  How did you manage to rise from the ashes, as it were?

Cooper:  I would like to say that I cut my hair off and used that to rebuild the building.  But I think the hair came off in the process somewhere.  We had insurance that covered the building, the equipment and the contents.  And then we had insurance for business loss, income loss, which turned into a court battle for three years.

Barry:  What happened next?

Cooper:  And so when we finally got the check, we had to pay taxes out of that money because it’s business income.  So for seven years – the first nine years of our business, we were profitable every year and growing organically.  The banks loved us – or the banks hated us because we actually paid the loans off too early. We had seven years where we made no money after the fire.  We became profitable again and started winning the business back.   OK, keep this in mind.  It’s 2008.  We’re profitable that year just in time for the worst economic downturn in world history that we know about, other than the Depression.  And the fortunate thing is that these bicycles were being pulled out of the garage and people were putting tires on it and commuting. And it made the bicycle shops flush with cash.  The dollar was going crazy with the euro. So all of a sudden, after seven years of struggling, we made it through.  And now, we’re four years in with profits again.

Barry:  Did international expansion save you?

Cooper:  If we didn’t have our international business, gosh, I don’t think we would have made it.

Barry:  So you and your wife are pretty persistent.  Do you think that persistence is a useful skill to have in the international marketplace?

Cooper:  I think persistence is something that you have to have to be in business in any country.  In my opinion, it may come from the bike racing that we did that hardened us and toughened us up.  And we’re not quitters.  We could have shut our plant down and moved it to Asia and had socks made over there.  But we decided to stay put.  We never missed a pay period with our employees.  And we buy local yarn and boxes.  So even though we’re only 38 employees now, the benefit is pretty widespread when we buy locally.

Barry:  Why not outsource to China?  Wouldn’t it be cheaper in the long run?

Cooper:  Cheaper – that’s a good word. I prefer the word value.  And what we prefer to use that word value is for long-lasting goodness, affordable price and a sock that’s going to last 10 years.  I don’t like the homogenization of other sock brands making their product in the same plant that I’m making mine in and all of a sudden my trade secrets are gone.  I don’t like the environmental issue. I don’t like the lead in the toys, the drywall issues with radioactive materials and the lunch boxes with the toxic waste in them.  You hit a nerve there.  And so American-made to me is control.  It’s American jobs.  It’s quality, and mostly it’s value.

Barry:  And when did the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Commercial Service in particular come into the story?

Cooper:  Anytime we have a question about a tariff, or when we’re dealing with Australia and we’re not sure what to do, or a new free trade (agreement), or some new idea comes up, we call the (Export Assistance Center) office in Charlotte.  Then there are international textile agreements and an understanding of how the sock is structured with what material and where the fibers come from and what category it fits in.  You guys have been a great help there.  You’ve got to remember, I was a dumb bike racer, a bad one at that.  I wasn’t a businessman.

Barry:  Have you learned things from your customers in Europe that you’ve been able to apply to your products that have helped you sell other places?

Cooper:  We get input from the word’s best riders.  Paolo Bettini, the Italian national champion, Olympic champion – sat down with me and we had a translator on what he needed in a sock. We then listened to him and made that sock available to the public.  So we used the world’s best cyclists to develop the sock, like astronauts, and then we took it to their fan base.

Barry:  Is it a trade secret or can you tell us what he told you?

Cooper:  That is a trade secret.

Barry:  Can you share some advice with us for other companies that are thinking about exporting?

Cooper:  My advice is figure out what your strengths are.  Use every available government agency’s help as well to really make your life a lot easier.  If you don’t have the skills or time to so the international, hire someone who can do it.

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The MAGIC of New Trade Opportunities and Partnerships

September 9, 2011

After being buffeted by fierce competition in recent years, the U.S. textile and apparel industry is positioning itself for success in the 21st century. Ample evidence could be found at a recent trade show in Las Vegas.

by Greg Bell, a writer in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs.

Francisco Sánchez, under secretary for international trade (left), and Chris DeMoulin, executive vice president of Advanstar Fashion Group and president of MAGIC International (right), cut the ribbon that officially opened the Sourcing at MAGIC show on August 22, 2011, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (photo courtesy U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel)

Francisco Sánchez, under secretary for international trade (left), and Chris DeMoulin, executive vice president of Advanstar Fashion Group and president of MAGIC International (right), cut the ribbon that officially opened the Sourcing at MAGIC show on August 22, 2011, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (photo courtesy U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel)

Summer days in Nevada can be hot. But they are nothing compared to the economic activity that was recently heating up in Las Vegas on August 21–24, 2011, at the fashion industry’s preeminent trade event: Sourcing at MAGIC.

This twice-yearly show has become a must-go-to event for the industry, bringing together representatives from the world’s top apparel producing countries, who are always in search of new partnerships to address their production needs. This year’s show, however, was unlike any other from the past. For the first time, the U.S. and Western Hemisphere supply chain served as the focus, with a pavilion and summit, “Sourcing in the Americas,” organized by the Department of Commerce.

The U.S textile industry along with apparel brands and retailers had the idea of focusing on the supply chain. Although they each represent different and often competing interests, they recognized the mutual benefits of this effort. Brands and retailers want to source closer to home, which results in improved quality and increased speed to market. And, naturally, the textile industry wants to increase its exports of yarn, fabric, and other products along the supply chain. It is a win–win for all parties, which is why the Obama administration was so eager to support the initiative.

New Opportunities for U.S. Producers

The International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) partnered with the organizers of MAGIC to hold the “Sourcing in the Americas” summit and pavilion. During a three-day period, exhibitors showcased their quality products by highlighting the incredible new opportunities in the region.

To mark the significance of this unique effort, Francisco Sánchez, under secretary for international trade, joined Chris DeMoulin, president of MAGIC, and others in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 22. Sánchez spoke about the importance of seizing the moment. “I feel an incredible amount of excitement and energy in the room. That’s because we all see the possibilities that this new event will lead to new partnerships, new ideas, new markets for your products, and new opportunities for success.”

Efforts such as the pavilion and summit will lead to job creation. Despite all the challenges facing U.S. textile and apparel companies, the industry continues to play an important role in the economy. In 2010, it generated more than $20 billion in exports, which supported nearly 600,000 workers and made the industry one of the largest manufacturing employers in the United States. Such job creation is especially important for rural areas, such as those located in the Southeast.

About the Office of Textiles and Apparel

The International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) administers programs and strategies to improve domestic and international competitiveness of the U.S. textiles, apparel, footwear, and travel goods industries. For U.S. manufacturers, suppliers, or exporters, OTEXA can help plan market entry through a variety of services, such as trade promotion events, online resources and personalized counseling, market research, and trade missions and shows. It also works with industry representatives to identify and resolve trade barriers in foreign markets and unfair trade practices. To learn more about the services that OTEXA makes available to U.S. exporters, visit its Web site at http://otexa.ita.doc.gov.

Promoting Western Hemisphere Trade

The Western Hemisphere accounts for roughly two-thirds of all U.S. textile and apparel exports—the largest of any market. In 2010, the United States exported nearly $13 billion worth of textiles and apparel to the region. (photo © skowa/iStock)

The Western Hemisphere accounts for roughly two-thirds of all U.S. textile and apparel exports—the largest of any market. In 2010, the United States exported nearly $13 billion worth of textiles and apparel to the region. (photo © skowa/iStock)

The Western Hemisphere is critical in promoting such U.S. exports. It accounts for roughly two-thirds of all U.S. textile and apparel exports—the largest of any market. In 2010, the United States exported nearly $13 billion worth of textiles and apparel to the region, which is an increase of nearly 20 percent over 2009.

Organizers of MAGIC highlighted the value of countries in the Western Hemisphere and the United States as trading partners and brought together regional businesses and retailers to showcase what each offers. More than 90 countries from the region were represented, including Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru. Preliminary feedback from participants indicated that the meetings held because of the show have led to incredible progress.

Textile Exports and Haitian Recovery

Haiti was a prominent presence at the show. With the help of USTR and funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, several large Haitian apparel manufacturers attended MAGIC. The manufacturers reported interest from nearly 200 potential customers, including representatives from some of the world’s most prominent clothing companies, who are looking for sourcing alternatives because of rising costs in Asia.

Contacts and sales generated from the show will make significant contributions to rebuilding Haiti, which was devastated by the 2010 earthquake. The apparel sector accounts for 90 percent of Haiti’s exports to the United States, and growth of this industry is critical to the recovery and expansion of the Haitian economy. Increased textile exports will lead to employment growth and new hope for many of its people.

Global Challenges and Solutions

Haiti is just one example of the strides made because of the exchange of ideas and experiences at “Sourcing in the Americas.” And it can be a model for the future of exporting. Sánchez remarked to attendees that the MAGIC event and the “Sourcing in the Americas” summit are recognition “that today’s global challenges require global solutions. In other words, all of us are going to have to work together—across city lines, state lines, borders, and oceans—to position ourselves for success in the 21st-century economy. We’ve got to be in constant search of fresh ideas, opportunities, and partnerships.”

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OTEXA Scores Global Exposure for US Military Textiles at DSEi 2009

October 5, 2009

Mary Lynn Landgraf has been working for the past seven years in the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) as a Senior International Trade Specialist specializing in technical textiles with an emphasis on military, hospitality and contract textiles. Ms. Landgraf brings years of private sector textile experience in international sales and marketing to her job and enjoys tackling and opening up new markets for the US textile industry.

All good things come in threes as is often quoted and OTEXA can validate the truth in the quote! I just returned from our third trade show appearance at the biennial Defense Systems & Equipment International Exhibition 2009 (DSEi 2009)—a whopping success of a military show with 1352 exhibitors from over 40 countries and 27 international pavilions. Add to these dynamic figures 77 delegations from 50 countries hosted by the UK Ministry of Defense and the scene is totally international and in the cross-hairs of defense issues. If you are looking for the latest technology from the global military community, you can find it at DSEi!

Tim Schoenheit of Cascade Coil Drapery stops by the booth to explain Blast Mitigation Curtain properties to Mary Lynn Landgraf, OTEXA Booth organizer. Photo U.S. Department of Commerce

Tim Schoenheit of Cascade Coil Drapery stops by the booth to explain Blast Mitigation Curtain properties to Mary Lynn Landgraf, OTEXA Booth organizer. Photo U.S. Department of Commerce

The Association of the US Army (AUSA) hosted the U.S. pavilion where OTEXA had its booth. I showcased 12 companies in our Sample Booth and proudly introduced our products to the global military market that spends a hefty $1.46 trillion dollars. The world came to our doorstep seeking innovation, state of the science fabrics, garments, inputs, linings, vests, shelters, socks, filtration devices, medical kits. The list was endless, but we had or knew of the resources to address their requests. Over 67 companies approached our booth seeking U.S. technical textile products for the military. Many companies in the U.S. supply the type of products they are seeking, providing an enormous amount of potential for future sales.

The OTEXA sample booth is the perfect venue to introduce your products to global military buyers and procurement officers. To learn more about how to join us at DSEi 2011 or any of our upcoming textile and apparel trade shows please contact Kim-Bang Nguyen or Mary Lynn Landgraf at 202.482.3737!

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