“A lot of the items we pointed out are help we need in dealing with some legislation that is on the books right now, the Korean Free Trade Agreement,” said Parkdale Mills Executive Vice President John Marr. “The verbiage is not really conducive to helping the U.S. textile industry as a whole. We’re hopeful and we’ve expressed our concerns.”
Officials also broached the topic of keeping American soldiers outfitted in American-made uniforms.
“Our military ought to buy American when we can so we don’t have to rely on the Chinese to provide uniforms and things like that,” Griffith said of the conversation. “They would like to see it expanded with Homeland Security, which makes sense. Should we get into a spat with a trading partner, we need to be in the position to provide ourselves with the basic needs of our military.”
More than 400 are employed at the Hillsville facility, which includes four plants. Griffith toured two of the plants and noted he was impressed by what he saw and the commitment to the product.
“We’ve got 400-plus jobs here, they’re making textiles in America; they’re beating the competition from overseas,” Griffith said. “They export about 60 percent of their product and they’re very competitive because they made an investment here and in some of their other plants. With the same number of employees, they historically could have produced 100-some thousand pounds, now they’re producing 1.5 million pounds a week of cotton thread. They supply most of the stuff that goes into our t-shirts and underwear. It’s neat to see it here. They use 100 percent American cotton. They’re adding value, not just jobs. They’re good, decent jobs for people and we need that.”
Griffith said the use of American cotton shouldn’t go unnoticed, either. He said Magnolia officials told him they gave Chinese cotton a try once but its quality was substandard and potentially hazardous to the equipment.
“What we’re seeing worldwide is American quality is still second to none and we need to keep it that way,” Griffith said. “They’re obviously very quality conscious here. The American worker and American technology and the American pride in their product is so much higher than a lot of the third world countries and China. We see this not just here, but in other industries.”
Griffith said energy concerns are big for industrial facilities such as Magnolia, and he is determined to fight for them.
“All they need is to make sure the playing field is somewhat level. They can have it tilted a little against them and they will still succeed,” Griffith said. “Their No. 1 concern is energy costs and supply. If we continue the policies of this administration where they want to go with the high cost energy sources — that doesn’t mean it’s not right to explore wind and solar, but they’re expensive. When you ignore natural gas and coal or you put them on the backburner, you’re ignoring what’s making us a cheap energy area, relatively speaking. If we’re going to compete with plants like this, we have got to keep a good, stable, affordable energy supply. That’s one of the things I’m taking back to Washington.”
He said he would like to hear the concerns of citizens, as well. To that end, Griffith has offices in Abingdon and Christiansburg, but will have mobile offices that will travel the Ninth District to better be able to communicate with constituents.
“If people have an issue on the federal level they want me to look at or something they want me to see, we are aggressively pushing the calendar so we can see as much as we can possibly see so I can go to Washington with real-life examples,” Griffith said.
Griffith’s Abingdon office is located at 323 W. Main Street in Abingdon and its telephone number is (276) 525-1405.