Could Textiles lead the way?
So in a sense the shifting of manufacturing jobs has been a steady progression since the dawn of the industrial age. Manufacturers have shifted production to sites where the costs are lower in a very rational way. Today, most of those small Southern towns are seeing the same mills that provided great jobs closing up and moving, first to Mexico, then to China and Vietnam.
But many Southern towns and cities have a huge vested interest in textiles. Perhaps we cannot be the manufacturing capital of textiles anymore, but we can be the innovation and design capital of textiles. Some of the most interesting and complex and differentiated textiles are being developed and produced in universities in the Southeast United States, where there's been a recognition that to remain competitive, they need to innovate the fabrics and the manufacturing processes.
My uncle, who has worked in textiles for many years, now finds he is in demand to train others on new techniques that his firm has developed for coatings and waterproofing fabrics. As our textile engineers and universities combine to create innovations around textiles, they demonstrate our using our knowledge, our insights and our willingness to innovate will keep us at the forefront of innovation in a space where the US can no longer compete, at least on a manufacturing basis. Maybe soon we'll see lots of small textile firms generating new fabrics and new production concepts which will be manufactured here and overseas, much like we see small biotech firms attempting to create a new drug.