I’ve always loved factory tours, but with every passing day they have become even more cherished. Loading the washing machine this week, I glanced at the label on my striped knit blouse. Lesotho? Better Google that one…..
The jeans capital of Africa, Lesotho produces 26 million pairs of denim jeans and 70 million knitted garments a year at 25 factories.
The Economic Policy Institute notes that “the growing US trade deficit with China cost 2.8 million jobs between 2001 – 2011, with 1.9 million in manufacturing.”
Those numbers don’t even count Central and South America, NAFTA or any of those places like Lesotho that you need to Google to figure out where they are.
Much of that production used to take place here in the Carolinas, where country roads are littered with shuttered textile mills and the unemployment rate has improved to a still unsavory 10%.
With this trend repeated around
the country, regions which relied heavily on their manufacturing bases are equally hurt.
Legendary Eastman Kodak finally declared bankruptcy recently, citing foreign competition as a cause.
But tune into How it’s Made, on the Science Channel and you will get a glimmer of the excitement from the creative process of making something.
Family legend has it that my first childhood factory tour was to Chocolate World in Hershey, PA. The Hershey Chocolate World now takes you through a simulated experience, but back then you went through the real factory. Imagine the smell of that much chocolate!
Ironically, I chose my career based on a factory tour. Located at the corner of 54th St. and 6th Ave. in NYC from 1970 – 1980, the Burlington Mill was intended to showcase Burlington’s products. It mesmerized me from my first glimpse.
“Visitors were invited to step onto a 155-ft long moving belt called a “rideway” for an 8 ½ minute ride through the amazing world of textiles.”
Accommodating 500,000 a year, The Mill hosted more guests at the time than the New York Stock Exchange or The United Nations. Few seem to remember the Mill now, but it changed the course of my life.
Craving more factory tours, I’ve since been through the Crayola Factory in Easton PA, the Celestial Seasonings Tea plant in CO, The Pendelton Woolen Mills in OR, and most recently a local craft brewery in Charlotte, NC. And then – there was Stoke-on-Trent in the UK, where my husband got to see so many plates that he almost lost his appetite for dinner. I was in Spode heaven.
Intended as a fun peek at our Belevation maternity underwear facility, contact us if you’re in the neighborhood and you’d like to see more. As I said, I love factory tours.