PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE

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HENRY RIVER MILL VILLAGE

In the first two decades of the 20th century, as industrialization thrived in Burke County, a water-powered cotton yarn manufacturer, a mill village, and a mill store on Henry River in eastern Burke was built. Times changed and the village shut down in 1973, was abandoned in 1987, served as District 12 in the Hunger Games films, and is now under renovation by its new owner, Calvin Reyes, making it a favorite destination for visitors.

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LEWIS HINE EXPOSES CHILD LABOR ABUSES

“Lewis Hine’s incendiary and provocative photos that helped end child labor in America.” Often in disguise, Hines, an investigative photographer often tricked his way into factories to take the pictures that factory managers did not want the public to see. He documented working conditions of children in the U.S. between 1908 and 1924, with a focus on the use of child labor in the Carolina Piedmont.

Photo: Lewis Hine/The U.S. National Archives

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1920s: FROM FARM TO FACTORY

By the 1920s, North Carolina was the Southeast's leading manufacturing state and the largest manufacturer of cotton textiles in the U.S.  Yet during this period, making a living was especially hard for farmers, who left the farms for what they hoped would be a better life for their families. The transition was very very hard, going from the open fields to the factory floors filled with cotton dust, high humidity ,and the deafening noise of the spinning and weaving rooms. 

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2020: SKILLED LABOR NEEDED

According to the Wall Street Journal, "The U.S. Industry is back, but there aren't enough workers". "Companies expanding American production due to consumer preferences and tariffs are finding a dearth of skilled workers'.

Read article: WSJ At Catawba Valley Community College’s Furniture Academy, students learn job skills from industry professionals. Travis Dove for the Wall Street Journal/ By Ruth SimonDec. 4, 2019 7:08 pm ET

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ECONOMIC CHANGES TODAY

In North Carolina, manufacturing has undergone many changes through the decades. From a leader in textiles and furniture production, to experiencing a major decline in part due to competition from the global economy, to today's entrepreneurial spirit,. Opportunity Threads is one such example of how manufacturing is changing. Locally based, this innovative company supports NC textile revitalization by building a local and strong textile supply chain. Interest in employee ownership and other bottom-up business strategies has increased in western North Carolina and surrounding areas. Opportunity Threads is a success story that provides a model for employee ownership within the region.

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SMART FABRICS, E-TEXTILES & WEARABLE TECH

 

 

As technology advances, so does the  integration of smart textiles to produce wearable devices with micro-sensors woven into textiles that will allow fabrics to monitor health, change colors, block hackers,  and generate power to mention only some of the advanced applications soon to revolutionize our lives.