Chinese companies are looking to manufacture in the U.S., lured by lower costs of energy, cotton and land, and wary of rising labor costs in China. The Carolinas once the epicenter of the U.S. textile industry, but since the late 1990s, thousands of jobs were lost when emerging markets joined the game, touting cheaper materials and labor. Carolinas textile jobs went to China, Brazil and Vietnam, among other places.
Keer, a textile company headquartered in Shanghai, China has decided to relocate part of its yarn production line to Lancaster for which it plans to build yarn manufacturing lines in Lancaster which will involving a $218 million investment and bring more than 500 jobs.
Wally Wang, deputy general manager at Keer America, believes more Chinese textile companies and other manufacturers will follow Keer to the U.S. That would be welcomed in Lancaster County, where the pain of lost textile jobs still resonates.
Keer's 230,000-square-foot factory project is set to finish in December. At least 140 employees will begin working at the site starting in spring. Most will make yarn on 32 production lines.
China's market share in the global textile industry had rocketed in the past two decades, but lately, Chinese textile companies have been stressed by competition within its borders and by its rising costs of labor, power and land.
While the first plant operates, construction workers will lay the foundation for a second factory to the south of it. The construction will take less than 18 months. After that, Keer intends to build two more factories, bringing its total space to more than 1 million square feet and 500 jobs.
SC Ready, a workforce training program in South Carolina, is helping Keer recruit and train local electricians, technicians and fabric sales representatives. One third of the program applicants are former textile workers who want to get back to the industry.
Keer's yarn production had been using American cotton for years; now they simply moved closer to be able to use more.
Now, Keer's factory will have Carolina-grown cotton coming in through its north gate. The south gate faces Charleston, where a large portion of finished yarn products will be shipped back to China, a center of apparel manufacturing.
The cost to manufacture in China has risen in the past few years and with the competition building up, Keer, whose assets exceeded $325 million in 2010, looked toward the Carolinas, after ruling out Vietnam, India and Pakistan as potential destinations.
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