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home : community : community January 23, 2019

11/23/2018 12:01:00 AM
Gaston College Textile Technology Center Marks 75 Years
Diamond anniversary for local landmark
Belmont Mayor Charlie Martin presents Sam Buff with a proclamation recognizing the Textile Technology Center’s 75th anniversary.
(Photo Courtesy Gaston College)

Belmont Mayor Charlie Martin presents
Sam Buff with a proclamation
recognizing the Textile Technology
Center’s 75th anniversary.

(Photo Courtesy Gaston College)

Lincoln Herald Staff

BELMONT, N.C. - Seventy-five years is a mighty long time.

Hitting that mark of three-quarters of a century is definitely worth celebrating. And that’s just what some local leaders did when they recently gathered to celebrate the diamond anniversary of the Textile Technology Center at Gaston College in Belmont, according to college spokeswoman Stephanie Michael Pickett.

The facility opened as the North Carolina Vocational Textile School in 1941, as Pickett informed. It offered its first classes in September of 1943. In 1972, a program that would lead to an associate’s degree in textile manufacturing technology was added, and that year, the program was attached to the North Carolina Department of Community Colleges. The school became the 59th institution in the N.C. Community College System and was renamed the North Carolina Center for Applied Textile Technology in 1991.

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Reggie Deal studied knitting at the textile school during his junior and senior years in high school, 1952-54. The high school gave credit for the courses he took at the textile school. The training Deal received started him on a long career in the textile industry, as he recently explained.

“The textile mills in Belmont were very active at that time and needed trained employees,” he said. “After finishing the classes at the textile school, I got a job as a fixer at Belmont Hosiery, repairing the machinery.”

Deal eventually moved to Lincolnton. In 1968, he got a job there at the Leslie Fay Knitting Plant. He worked at Leslie Fay until it closed in 1980.

Because he could see that the regional textile industry was slowing down, Deal studied electrical engineering at Gaston College for three years during the 1970’s. When the Leslie Fay plant closed, he got a job at the Timken Bearing Plant, also in Lincolnton, and he worked there until he retired in 2000.

An active member of the Belmont Historical Society, Deal brought some vintage historical photographs to the textile school’s 75th birthday celebration. He also shared a 1954 issue of The Knitter magazine, which features an article about the school.

In 1989, Jerome Harris was at the top of his class at the textile school, winning the Academic Excellence Award. He had taken a course in dyeing and finishing technology. This was an area of interest, because at the time Harris was a dye-house supervisor at Pharr Yarns.

“What I learned at the textile school in that course helped me get promoted to lab manager,” he said. “Shortly thereafter, I was promoted to technical director.”

Harris later accepted a job as dye-house manager with Spectrum Dyed Yarns. He joined the staff of the textile technology center in 2011. He is now the senior dyeing and finishing specialist.

The textile school became part of Gaston College in 2005. Since then, it has grown substantially, quadrupling the size of its customer base to nearly 300. In addition to classes that train people for the textile industry, the Textile Technology Center works with clients and partners in the industry on product development, sample production and laboratory testing. It has evolved with the industry to provide cutting-edge solutions to fiber producers, textile and apparel manufacturers and retailers with highly specialized needs. Its client base includes such companies as Parkdale Mills, Wellman, DuPont, Pharr Yarns, Nike, BASF, the U.S. Army, Echoview Fiber Mill, Glen Raven, Unifi, Filspec, Uster Technologies and Sealed Air.

Textile Technology Center Training Manager Suzette McHugh also talked about the school.

“The Textile Technology Center is a unique resource for the textile industry in its scope, its capabilities and the expertise affiliated with it,” said McHugh. “The Textile Center provides new product-development services to assist textile clients with their new product ideas. The knowledge and experience of the staff, combined with the processing and testing capabilities, enables customers to obtain a quick but thorough product evaluation and provides guidance on how to proceed with the concept. This is truly a valued entity, working to assist textile clients to be successful and grow their businesses.”

Raul Thomas is the textile laboratory and training manager for Swiss-based Uster Technologies, Inc. Thomas is an enthusiastic supporter of the center.

“My company has been a partner to the Textile Technology Center for several years,” he said. “Some of Uster’s laboratory equipment is located at the textile center, and it has been a win-win situation for Uster, the Textile Technology Center and the textile industry for the following reasons: Uster has a location in which some of its latest state-of-the-art laboratory equipment can be showcased. The Textile Technology Center has free access to use the equipment for contract testing. The textile industry receives valuable test results from some of the latest generation of Uster laboratory equipment.

“I have been privileged to serve on the center’s advisory board for the past six years,” he added. “From this vantage point, I have a greater appreciation of the evolving and vital roles in which the textile center operates. The center is uniquely qualified and equipped to perform a wide range of physical, chemical and microscopy testing, training a wide range of customers on various textile topics, conducting trial production runs from fiber to finished fabric, etc. In my opinion, the services provided by the Textile Technology Center are essential to the needs of an ever-changing textile industry. I offer my congratulations on 75 years of service and best wishes for another 75!”

Serving on the North Carolina Center for Applied Textile Technology Foundation Board of Directors is Bill Gray, who is retired from the Charlotte office of Murata Machinery USA, Inc., a world leader in machine tool technology, automated storage and retrieval systems, clean room automation and textile machinery. 

“The Textile Center is important to the textile industry not only in North Carolina but also the whole United States,” Gray said. “As the industry declined at the turn of the century, the surviving companies reduced staff involved with testing, research and quality control. The center took over these roles for a reasonable cost to the industry and became an essential part of not only their survival but also their growth. The members of the staff at the center are heroes to the industry.”

Gaston College President Dr. Patricia Skinner agreed.

“The Textile Technology Center has been the centerpiece of our Kimbrell Campus in Belmont,” said Skinner. “Over its 75-year history, it has been a vital resource to the textile industry, both for work force training and for the services and solutions it offers. We are proud that the center has grown and evolved since it became part of Gaston College in 2005, and we congratulate its staff and clients, past and present, on this momentous anniversary.”

Sam Buff of Lincolnton is the director of the Textile Technology Center. At the event, Buff talked with attendees about the center’s history, successes and activities.

“From its beginning as the North Carolina Vocational Textile School up to today, the center has been an integral part of the North Carolina textile industry,” he said. “It has seen the industry through ups and downs, and now it is proud to have helped in the evolution and rebound of the present-day textile industry. I look forward to our continued partnerships with our clients and to all the technological advances that will further modernize the industry. I anticipate that the center will still be going strong on its 100th anniversary.” 

Since its inception, the Textile Technology Center has played a significant role in helping the industry in remaining competitive, manufacturing quality products and maintaining a well-trained work force. On the center’s 75th anniversary and beyond, Gaston College and the Textile Technology Center remain committed to fulfilling the center’s mission to serve the resurgent and vibrant textile industry in North Carolina with modern and advanced solutions and continued excellence. The center currently serves 350 customers in Gaston and Lincoln counties, statewide, nationally and internationally. Last fiscal year, the center made $1.9 million dollars.

The Textile Technology Center also received proclamations from the Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, the Lincolnton City Council, the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and others. The proclamations are on display at the center on the Kimbrell Campus.

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