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Fiber Industries is building a classic American success story founded on its heritage. Textile manufacturing in South Carolina has a long history; Fiber Industries, like much of the American Textile manufacturing industry at the time, was in dire straits not so long ago. In fact, the company, formerly known as Wellman, filed for bankruptcy in 2008. The private firm that acquired Fiber Industries had the foresight to envision how the company could lead the way in domestic production of quality polyester staple fiber.

“A lot has changed since 2008” CEO Don Bockoven notes. “Most recently, COVID demonstrated the dangers of overreliance on manufacturing and the supply chain disruption in waiting for goods from overseas. Back in 2008, labor costs in Asia were considerably less than domestic labor. Today, the gap has closed that enables a more competitive dynamic barring any foreign government subsidies.”

He also points to additional issues on the minds of both consumers and corporate boards that are driving the renaissance of American manufacturing. “Improving our technology and manufacturing processes isn’t just about being more cost-efficient, it is also about how we deal with climate change and sustainability. Our sustainability strategy is essential to our core values and is what our customers appreciate about us. Perhaps most importantly, we strive to build on the great history of this plant of delivering the best quality. This is our ‘go back to the future’ strategy. Where Fiber Industries and American manufacturing in general stands out is our ability to produce goods at the highest quality levels.”

Fiber Industries is now making its own history. The company has upgraded many of its systems using modern technology. They are also focused on developing a highly collaborative model to create innovative and sustainable high quality polyester stable fiber. This fiber product is used in leading fabrics and garments that fits today’s highly competitive pricing, sustainability and fulfillment requirements.

“What we make is a product that was developed over 80 years ago to be a replacement for or a supplement to cotton,” explains Bockoven. “It’s a raw material that goes to yarn spinners, then to weavers and finally to the fabric makers. Our polyester staple fiber is ideal for high-end performance fabric, workwear, knit goods, automotive applications and just about anything that involves fabric.”

Key to this, Bockoven emphasizes, is collaboration with customers, universities and new tech start-ups to bring a product or application to life. “Partnership is our passion,” he says. “The foundation of our success is to provide optimal customer service and clear communication to formulate and deliver sustainable and innovative fiber solutions for the specific product needs.”

South Carolina Manufacturing

Fiber Industries is located in Darlington, South Carolina. Building on a significant investment into its Wellman Palmetto Plant, the rejuvenated facility comprises 1.1 million square feet of total building space on 765 acres with low-cost rail infrastructure on site. The company currently employs about 300 textile professionals.

Bockoven notes that while automation is employed through various process control and enterprise systems, skilled labor remains an important ingredient. “Like every other manufacturer, we are dealing with the problem of finding the talent we need. We’re working with the South Carolina Department of Commerce to incentivize workforce readiness. In addition, we’re working with local community colleges and technical schools, and even the high school system, to develop internship programs.”

Fiber Industries recently announced a $30 million facility expansion expected to create 50 additional jobs, for which the South Carolina Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved job development credits. The council also awarded Darlington County a $300,000 Rural Infrastructure grant to assist with the building improvements.

The expansion increases plant capacity and modernizes production lines, as well as adding warehouse space and state-of-the-art control systems. While some operations are gradually phasing in, full completion of the project is expected by early 2023.

In a recent press release, Bockoven comments, “We are excited about the continuing growth of our facility which is now even better positioned to serve the needs of the American textile industry. We also are proud to be part of the wider effort to reshore jobs and bring textile manufacturing back to the USA. We thank the state of South Carolina as well as Darlington County for their unwavering support.”

Core Values

Bockoven emphasizes that the success of Fiber Industries in reclaiming a leading position in American textile manufacturing is underpinned by its basic core values. “We believe people are our most important asset and teamwork is the foundation of our culture. Part of our family-based values is to contribute to the community that supports us with various fundraising and local volunteer events. We create the highest quality, sustainable products for customers while operating safely and reliably to improve our environment as a leader in the polyester textile industry.”

Fiber Industries continues the long American tradition of textile manufacturing in South Carolina, focusing on polyester staple fibers.