Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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Last Tuesday I spent the morning at an Industry Roundtable Breakfast, sponsored by the Warren County Economic Development Commission and hosted by Glen Raven in Norlina, NC. Two of my board members accompanied me at this event.

Ken Bowman, Warren County Economic Development Director, brought together a gathering of approximately 25 business and government leaders from around Warren County to network and to hear an economic development update. After the breakfast and networking, we enjoyed a presentation about Glen Raven, a North Carolina-based company with a significant history and even brighter future.

The Glen Raven Custom Fabrics facility in Norlina is a shining star in that future. The facility was constructed in the 1970s to manufacture polyester and later panty hose. (Did you know that Glen Raven designed and manufacture Panty-Legs, the first one-piece pantyhose?) The plant was retooled in 1996 into a spun plant to create acrylic yarn for custom fabrics. Glen Raven of Norlina is a 24/7 operation, employs 155 people and is a very cost-effective facility and 100% landfill-free. Any waste generated at the plant is recycled or incinerated, and the ashes from the incineration are used by another company to make cement. Ingenious!

After an overview of the company on a global and local scale by Manufacturing Executive Todd Wemyss, we split into smaller groups to tour the plant. My group was led by Manufacturing Manager Malvin Hargrove. Mr. Hargrove lives in Norlina and has worked at this textile facility for 37 years under different company flags, the longest of which has been Glen Raven. Mr. Hargrove exhibited a complete knowledge of every step of the manufacturing process and a great pride in his work, that of the employees he supervises and of the Glen Raven facility and company as a whole. There is no greater asset to any company or business than wonderful people, and Mr. Hargrove is certainly top of the list.

I oo’ed and ah’ed many times during the tour. I was amazed at the cleanliness of the facility. Glen Raven is not the stereotypical textile mill that people conjure in their minds. Seeing the process of transitioning bales of acrylic “fluff,” for lack of a better technical term, into skeins of fluffy yarn, then stretched and twisted in a precise manner to create a strong, thin yarn was inspiring. The process is almost completely automated, and the machinery used is amazing.

Mr. Hargrove told us that safety is the number one priority at Glen Raven, and that fact is evident. Since the machines move at extremely high speeds, they are equipped with sensors if something or someone gets too close. Mr. Hargrove demonstrated by passing his hand near the machine, and the machine immediately shut off. If there is a problem on any portion of the line (at any given time one of the machines is processing more than 500 bobbins of yarn), the machine shuts off and signals the operator to come check things out and get everything back on line.

I love both our small businesses and our locally-based industries and appreciate the role each plays in driving our economy. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Glen Raven. Both of my grandparents worked in the textile mills in Roanoke Rapids, and it is wonderful to see a different evolution of the textile industry still at work in North Carolina. A statement on the company website – – really summarizes Glen Raven’s philosophy, “Enhancing life for global consumers with the world’s most innovative fabric-based, market-driven solutions.” Keep up the great work, Glen Raven!

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