Don’t tell Matt Shannon that the textile industry in South Carolina is dead or dying.
“We are here, we are strong,” said Shannon, head of Greenwood Mills weaving department. The mill is a private, family-owned textile plant that has been a fixture in the town of Greenwood for the past 127 years.
While the industry doesn’t employ nearly the numbers it did even as recent as 2001, where the textile mills industry employed more than 52,000 people, there are still nearly 15,000 employed in mills around the state.
The textile industry is considered a legacy industry, meaning that the projected job growth of the industry is declining, but it still has a competitive advantage because of its location. Textiles place well above the national average in the Upstate region for their location quotient, the number that is determined by how influential an industry is in a certain region. You can find the report here.
However, Shannon and Greenwood Mills Human Resources Director Lisa McMillan agree that there won’t be any significant amount of change in the industry’s job growth, but it can be assumed that there will be a slight and steady increase over the coming years due to the number of companies coming back to the states coupled with the number of people expected to retire in the coming years.
“This isn’t just at our plant, but industry everywhere,” McMillan said.
As the textile industry evolved from labor intensive machinery, to water powered equipment and now to a more technology driven plant, the kinds of employees needed have evolved too. Both Shannon and McMillan said the types of people Greenwood Mills is looking to hire are people who want a career, and who are willing to start at the bottom.
“The biggest problem we face is finding qualified labor that is willing to work. A lot of people want a job, but when it comes down to actually working, they don’t want to do it,” Shannon said. “A lot of times it’s the simple things like showing up on time and doing what you’re supposed to.”
What you can expect as a new hire at Greenwood Mills are not desk jobs, but a place where everyone works on the floor in a fast-paced environment. Training for many of the positions is done in-house and the only qualifications you need are basic math and communication skills.
Shift work is a big part of the efficiency of the plant, and while everyone works on average 40 to 50 hours a week, new hires usually work the off-shift hours and gradually work up to the day shift. There are more technical positions that are needed.
“Every new machine is more mechanized than the last, and if technology interests you, there is a job for you in the textile industry,” Shannon said.