Textile Technology Center Celebrates its 75th Anniversary
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Textile Technology Center Celebrates its 75th Anniversary

Textile Technology Center Celebrates its 75th Anniversary

Members of the North Carolina textile community will gather on Thursday, November 8, as the Textile Technology Center at Gaston College marks its 75th anniversary.

Textile Technology Center LogoThe facility opened as the North Carolina Vocational Textile School in 1941 and offered its first classes in September of 1943. In 1972, a program that would lead to an Associate Degree in Textile Manufacturing Technology was added, and that year the program was attached to the N.C. Department of Community Colleges. The school became the 59th institution in the N.C. Community College System and was renamed the North Carolina Center for Applied Textile Technology (NCCATT) in 1991.

Reggie Deal studied knitting at the Textile School from 1952 to 1954, during his junior and senior years in high school. The high school gave credit for the courses he took at the Textile School. The training Deal received started him on a long career in the textile industry. “The textile mills in Belmont were very active at that time and needed trained employees,” said Deal. “After finishing the classes at the Textile School, I got a job as a fixer at Belmont Hosiery, repairing the machinery.” He eventually moved to Lincolnton and in 1968 he got a job at the Leslie Fay Knitting Plant located there. He worked at Leslie Fay until the plant closed in 1980.

Because he could see that the regional textile industry was slowing down, Deal studied Electrical Engineering at Gaston College for three years during the 1970s. When the Leslie Fay plant closed, he got a job at the Timken Bearing Plant, and he worked there until he retired in 2000.

Deal became active in the Belmont Historical Society about 10 or 15 years ago, and he plans to bring vintage photos of the Textile School with him when he attends the NCCATT 75th Anniversary Celebration on November 8. He will also share a 1954 issue of “The Knitter” magazine, which features an article about the School.Textile Technology Center Machine

Jerome Harris graduated at the top of his class at the Textile School in 1989, winning the Academic Excellence Award. He had taken a course in Dyeing and Finishing Technology, which was an area of interest because at the time he was a Supervisor in the Dyehouse at Pharr Yarns. “What I learned at the Textile School in that course helped me get promoted to Lab Manager,” he said. “Shortly thereafter, I was promoted to Technical Director.” Harris later accepted a job as Dyehouse Manager with Spectrum Dyed Yarns. He joined the staff of the Textile Technology Center in 2011 and he is now the Senior Dyeing and Finishing Specialist.

The NCCATT became part of Gaston College in 2005, and since that time it has grown substantially, quadrupling the size of its customer base to nearly 300. In addition to classes that train individuals for the textile industry, the Textile Technology Center works with clients and partners in the industry on product development, sample production, and laboratory testing. It has evolved with the industry to provide cutting edge solutions to fiber producers, textile and apparel manufacturers, and retailers with highly specialized needs. Its client base includes companies like Parkdale Mills, Wellman, DuPont, Pharr Yarns, Nike, BASF, US Army, Echoview Fiber Mill, Glen Raven, Unifi, Filspec, Uster Technologies, and Sealed Air.

Suzette McHugh is the Textile Technology Center Training Manager. “The Textile Technology Center is a unique resource for the textile industry—in its scope, its capabilities and the expertise affiliated with it. The Textile Center provides new product development services to assist textile clients with their new product ideas. The knowledge and experience of the staff, combined with the processing and testing capabilities, enables customers to obtain a quick but thorough product evaluation and provides guidance on how to proceed with the concept. This is truly a valued entity, working to assist textile clients to be successful and grow their business.”

Raul Thomas, Textile Laboratory and Training Manager at Uster Technologies, Inc., is an enthusiastic supporter of the Center. “My company has been a partner to the Textile Technology Center for several years,” he said. “Some of Uster’s laboratory equipment is located at the Textile Center and it has been a win win win situation for Uster, the Textile Technology Center, and the textile industry for the following reasons: Uster has a location in which some of its latest state of the art laboratory equipment can be showcased. The Textile Technology Center has free access to use the equipment for contract testing. The textile industry receives valuable test results from some of the latest generation of Uster laboratory equipment.”

Thomas continued, “I have been privileged to serve on the Center’s Advisory Board for the past six years. From this vantage point, I have a greater appreciation of the evolving and vital roles in which the Textile Center operates. The center is uniquely qualified and equipped to perform a wide range of physical, chemical, and microscopy testing, training a wide range of customers on various textile topics, conducting trial production runs from fiber to finished fabric, etc. In my opinion, the services provided by the Textile Technology Center are essential to the needs of an ever-changing textile industry. I offer my congratulations on 75 years of service, and best wishes for another 75!”

Serving on the NCCATT Foundation’s Board of Directors is Bill Gray, who is retired from the Charlotte office of Murata Machinery USA, Inc., a world leader in machine tool technology, automated storage and retrieval systems, clean room automation, and textile machinery. “The Textile Center is important to the textile industry not only in North Carolina, but also the whole United States,” he said. “As the industry declined at the turn of the century, the surviving companies reduced staff involved with testing, research and quality control. The Center took over these roles for a reasonable cost to the industry and became an essential part of not only their survival but also their growth. The members of the staff at the Center are heroes to the industry.”

“The Textile Technology Center has been the centerpiece of our Kimbrell Campus in Belmont,” said Dr. Patricia Skinner, President of Gaston College. “Over its 75 year history, it has been a vital resource to the textile industry, both for workforce training and for the services and solutions it offers. We are proud that the Center has grown and evolved since it became part of Gaston College in 2005 and we congratulate its staff and clients, past and present, on this momentous anniversary.”

At the anniversary celebration on November 8, Dr. Skinner will welcome guests, including Center partners and clients, members of the Gaston College Board of Trustees, the Center’s Advisory Board and Foundation Board of Directors, government officials, and past and current staffers. Representatives from some of the Center’s partners, along with Belmont Mayor Charlie Martin, will offer comments.

Sam Buff, Director of the Textile Technology Center, will share with the attendees the history, successes, and activities of the Center, and will invite the guests to tour the Center’s facilities.

“I look forward to hosting this celebration of the Textile Technology Center,” said Buff. “From its beginning as the North Carolina Vocational Textile School up to today, the Center has been an integral part of the North Carolina textile industry. It has seen the industry through ups and downs and now it is proud to have helped in the evolution and rebound of the present-day textile industry. I look forward to our continued partnerships with our clients, and to all the technological advances that will further modernize the industry. I anticipate that the Center will still be going strong on its 100th anniversary.” 

Since its inception, the Textile Technology Center has played a significant role in helping the industry in remaining competitive, manufacturing quality products, and maintaining a well-trained workforce. On the Center’s 75th anniversary and beyond, Gaston College and the Textile Technology Center remain committed to fulfilling the Center’s mission to serve the resurgent and vibrant textile industry in North Carolina with modern and advanced solutions and continued excellence.

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