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Q&A: American Textile Company CEO Talks Made in USA

With consumer demand for homegrown products increasing, apparel retailers and manufacturers are becoming more interested in American manufacturing.

Duquesne, Pennsylvania-based home textile supplier, American Textile Company (ATC), is doing its part to bring home textiles manufacturing back to the U.S. The company has expansion plans slated for this year, and last year it increased the size of its manufacturing and distribution center in Tifton, Georgia to 400,000 square feet, doubling its workforce.

Sourcing Journal spoke to Lance Ruttenburg, American Textile Company president and CEO about the state of American manufacturing and the company’s goals for the future.

SJ: What is the ATC’s view on Made in USA operations? What are the benefits? What are the challenges?

LR: I think when it makes sense for the American consumer to have a product made here in the United States, given you can meet everybody’s price, quality, all that specification criteria, it should be, and is our goal. I’m not sure that there’s too much more magic to the formula to try to make things here, other than that if you can make them here, everybody including ourselves would prefer to do that.

Cost and access to raw materials particularly in the home textiles space is something that we have to wrestle with and to the extent we can accommodate those needs in our supply chain and make it here we do, and if the opportunity presents itself then we look for a way to get the product the people want at the cost that they want on the shelves as they expect it to be. So it’s a product by product, case by case decision and there’s a lot of input that we have to always consider when we make something.

SJ: Have you seen a resurgence in American manufacturing?

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LR: From our perspective, we have seen in our own space a need for American manufacturing particularly for items that are sold in very lightweights that allow us to take advantage of the freight factor that is included in our overall wholesale price to our customers. And we have built almost five facilities since 2006 to accommodate the transit time and the inefficiency of the freight when you bring in products from the Far East. So yes, we have seen a resurgence in domestic manufacturing, added several operations and hundreds of people in our category of product, where freight is a critical path item that needs to be addressed by making things closer to our customer.

SJ: Are more of those customers seeking American-made goods?

LR: I can’t necessarily tell you that the American-made part of it is a driving feature although we’re proud to make a lot of our products in the United States. I still think that we believe the consumer is looking for the best price and the best quality and the features and benefits that they want to have in their consumer products and to the extent we accomplish all that and also can make it in the United States—that’s a benefit to everybody.

SJ: What’s new in home textiles?

LR: Our business, the home textile business, historically patterns itself after the apparel market, the trends there are in performance-based items where the materials do something that keep you hotter, they keep you warmer, they balance your temperature, they protect you from something, and those means are finding their way very much into home textiles. So performance or some sort of item that does something rather than just in addition to being comfortable actually has another feature or benefit, allergen barrier, or temperature balancing, all those kinds of ideas are finding their way into bedding on the heels of all the success in the apparel space.

SJ: What is the status of the Tifton facility that was expanded in September? Has the company seen any direct benefits thanks to this expansion?

LR: It’s fully functional, it works seven days a week, 24 hours a day, employs in the neighborhood of 150 people and it is, I would say, fully utilized. It was a great investment for us and we couldn’t be more pleased with it coming online. We hope to build up some other facilities as well over the next couple years.

It’s allowed us to manage our growth and to meet our growing business demands. Our business is growing and our ability to support that business relies on continuing investment in infrastructure, warehousing, equipment, manufacturing equipment, people, and that was certainly a piece of that puzzle.

SJ: Are there plans for further expansion going forward? What’s next for the company?

LR: Yes, in three regions we expect to expand. On the horizon right now a Southwest expansion around our Dallas operations, our Northwest operations in Salt Lake City, and we think that both of those will be 2016 projects.

Our goal is to grow our business, so whether that’s organic growth or expansion of our services and offerings, we’ll continue to explore every opportunity we come across. Our forward-looking plans are to continue to build this business.