Close up picture of cotton field.

American Made Textile Industry | Wear American Act of 2012

The “Wear American Act of 2012” is gaining momentum as the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) officially declares support by giving its “Made in the USA seal of approval” from the U.S. textile industry. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Brown (D-Ohio), would require all government agencies to source 100 percent Made in the USA textiles, American made textile components and apparel. The Act, along with other recent drafted legislation related to the U.S. Olympic uniforms, intensifies the discussion on how to refocus consumer spending back to American made goods.

Large impact studies from the Boston Consulting Group and others indicate that the “China Advantage” for textile exports is eroding as labor and transportation costs are on the rise in China. Combined with increased productivity in US based plants, this puts more emphasis on domestic manufacturing and consumer spending for American made goods.

Cass Johnson, President of the NCTO, said, “On behalf of the U.S. textile industry, I applaud Senator Brown’s (D-Ohio) leadership in recognizing the value that domestically procured textile and apparel items bring to our government and to our national economy. Whether on the playing field or as part of the federal government, using the Made in the USA brand should be an integral part of how the United States represents itself to our citizens and the rest of the world. Our country should stand proud of our products made in this country, proud of our manufacturing base and proud of the workers who produced those goods. Increased U.S. government procurement of U.S. made textile and apparel products also helps our economy grow. Instead of outsourcing these products, let’s help bring more manufacturing back to the United States. Every textile job created in this country supports three other U.S. jobs, so the payoff to the overall economy is significant.”

American flag made using stitching and textiles.

Choosing American Made Goods First

According to Johnson, over the last three years the textile industry has invested more than $3 billion in infrastructure and technology advancements within the textile industry. As a result, the United States produces some of the most advanced fabrics and yarns found anywhere globally. With these recent advancements, production capacity will not be an issue if the “Wear American Act of 2012” is passed. The growth rate of the apparel industry and manufacturing industry combined with the ripe labor market makes this an opportunistic time for policies to incentivize consumer spending for American made apparel.

The average textile worker earns 151% more than apparel store workers and receives health and retirement benefits, according to 2011 figures provided by NCTO. The growth rate of consumer spending for American made apparel can have a direct impact on these type of jobs.

“Manufacturing helped make this country great,” Sen. Brown said. “Good-paying manufacturing jobs have allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to buy homes, send their children to college, and retire with security. But for too long, we’ve seen American manufacturing jobs—including textile and apparel jobs—shipped overseas due to unfair trade that has stacked the deck against American workers.”

The United States Government is trying to set the example for consumer spending by drafting this type of legislation. The industry has added 2,000+ new jobs and shipped $53 billion worth of American made textile products last year alone.

The “Buy American Act” would still be in effect along with its exceptions when domestic items are not available. However, the “Wear American Act of 2012” would increase the content requirements to 100 percent for American made textiles, textile components, and apparel.

NTCO also offered the following data points:

  • U.S. textile shipments totaled $53 billion in 2011 and the U.S. textile industry is the third largest exporter of textile products in the world. Exports in 2010 grew 13.4 percent to more than $17 billion in 2011. Total textile and apparel exports were a record $22.4 billion.
  • Nearly two-thirds of U.S. textile exports during 2011 went to our Western Hemisphere free trade partners. The U.S. textile industry exported to more than 170 countries, with 22 countries buying more than $100 million a year.
  • The U.S. textile industry supplies more than 8,000 different textile products per year to the U.S. military.
  • The U.S. is the world leader in textile research and development, with private textile companies and universities developing new textile materials such as conductive fabric with antistatic properties, electronic textiles that monitor heart rate and other vital signs, antimicrobial fibers, antiballistic body armor for people and the machines that carry them and new garments that adapt to the climate to make the wearer warmer or cooler.
  • The U.S. textile industry invested $16.5 billion in new plants and equipment from 2001 to 2010. And recently producers have opened new fiber, yarn and recycling facilities to convert textile waste to new textile uses and resins.
  • The U.S. textile industry has increased productivity by 45 percent over the last 10 years, making textiles one of the top industries among all industrial sectors in productivity increases.