By Anna Dolianitis
Employees of Graniteville Specialty Fabrics received a visit Wednesday from Congressman Joe Wilson, who toured the facility and saw firsthand the innovative and historic contributions the facility has made that are now used worldwide.
The facility, which began as the Specialty Fabrics Division of The Graniteville Company in 1947 and was renamed Graniteville Specialty Fabrics in 2006, is a manufacturer of specialized fabric for a variety of uses, many for military purposes.
“The history of this institution really goes back,” Wilson told a group of employees. “This is the beginning of the textile industry in our state, which is still very, very important to the people of South Carolina.”
Wilson said the model set by companies like Graniteville Specialty Fabrics have paved the way for companies, like Bridgestone, which are expanding and creating an economic boost for the local economy, but expressed his concern over losing manufacturing to foreign businesses.
The company’s president, Jim Egan, met with Wilson in Washington, D.C., last week in his role on the board of directors with the United States Industrial Fiber Institute discussing the Berry Amendment, under which many items obtained for the Department of Defense are to be made in the United States.
During the visit, Wilson said he would like to visit the Graniteville facility.
“I think it was a very good opportunity for the employees to actually see their Congressman and, more importantly, our opportunity to show our industry off to the congressman to let him know we are alive and well and we are competitive,” Egan said. “I think the congressman is very concerned about the loss of our manufacturing base in the United States, and it’s nice to just show him a company that is surviving and hanging in there and hopefully continuing to grow and prosper.”
Egan and other facility personnel showed Wilson and his staff the processes that happens at the facility, from creating and testing fabric coating to be used in military uniforms and tents for weather and safety purposes, to creating fabric for use as boat covers, air craft needs, and even everyday items like ironing boards and media signage.
The Graniteville facility is also the original creator of the first striped awning, developed in 1933. Previously, solid awnings were simply painted with a brush to create the striping. The facility also developed tents used in the Persian Gulf War and made sandbags during the Vietnam War.
Wilson said what intrigued him most is how companies throughout the state work together. The Graniteville facility uses products in its processes that are produced by Clariant Corporation in Allendale County, part of the district that Wilson currently represents.
“I’ve been a strong proponent of the Clariant Corporation that makes specialty inks and dyes and that is used here in the process with specialty fabrics,” Wilson said. “It’s really encouraging to me to see companies that are within the Congressional district and within South Carolina working together, and it just really gives me a real feel of what I can do to promote these industries.”
Source: Aiken Standard