By Chuck Crumbo
Published May 24, 2012
LORIS, S.C. — The textile industry in the Carolinas is still in business these days with companies like Integra Fabrics.
A privately owned firm, Integra specializes in custom printing fabrics like draperies, upholstery and bed coverings that are used in commercial settings such as hotels to hospitals.
Integra also is championing efforts to promote textile manufacturing in the United States.
“Textiles are very much a traditional industry for the Carolinas,” said Debbie McArthur, Integra president.
|Debbie McArthur (right) president of Integra Fabrics, helps Amy Cannon wrap and roll of fabric at the company’s plant in Loris, S.C. (Photo/Chuck Crumbo)|
“What’s interesting — and I love to have this conversation with people — for every manufacturing job, it creates an additional five to six jobs. How basic and simple is that? You should be screaming about it.”
Integra prints fabrics — wovens, vinyls, sheers, prints and upholstery — that are custom designed, McArthur said.
One example she offered might be the design on a hotel’s drapes.
“You want the design of the fabric to reflect the location,” McArthur said.
Drapes in a Key West, Fla., motel may have a beach design with bright colors, she said. “It’s not what a business traveler would see in a hotel in Chicago.”
Founded in 1988, the company’s operations moved from Anderson County to Horry County in the mid-1990s. Initially, Integra operated from a two-story house on 37th Avenue in Myrtle Beach and consisted of three employees — McArthur, founder and CEO Terry Purcell, and a staffer.
Now it’s in a modern, 70,000-square-foot facility on the outskirts of Loris, a town of about 2,700 people in northern Horry County.
Integra has 30 employees and plans to add 10 to 15 workers as it expands services. Future customers will be able to buy fabric from Integra, have it custom-printed at the Loris facility, and then fashioned on the company’s sewing machines into a variety of products, including drapes and bed coverings.
Bringing sewing in-house will improve quality control and meet customers’ needs for a fully integrated provider of commercial fabrics, McArthur said. McArthur also promotes efforts to buy domestically produced textile projects, citing the need to maintain tight quality control.
“There’s so much added value to buying domestically,” McArthur said.
When a company buys fabric from a domestic firm, she said, the U.S. firm most likely will send someone to the site to investigate a problem and fix it. If the defective fabric comes from a foreign textile company, it’s doubtful the mill will make a site visit, and it could take months for the right material to show up.
Quite often foreign manufacturers “don’t want to talk to you once the order gets in that container,” McArthur said. “They don’t want a long-term relationship. They just want the (purchase order) right now.”
What might have been an effort to cut costs on a project, could wind up costing thousands in delays, she said.
“How much would you pay if a hotel project went bad?” McArthur asked. “Was it worth 50 cents or $1 a yard to you?”
Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-401-1024, ext. 204.