A Belevation Factory Tour
A Belevation Factory Tour

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 has not sprung back. With this trend repeated around the country, regions which relied heavily on manufacturing bases are equally hurt.


Legendary Eastman Kodak finally declared bankruptcy, 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.  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. Mesmerizing from the 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, though few remember it now. 

Craving more factory tours, we'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 facility, contact us if you're in the neighborhood. As I said, we love factory tours.

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