September 24, 2022
  • September 24, 2022

bill seeks to support the state’s textile industry | Local

By on April 28, 2022 0

MAURY THOMPSON Special for The Post-Star

Lilly Marsh and her husband moved from Indiana to Queensbury in 2016 and discovered, after the fact, a thriving market for her career as a weaver.

“I’ve been a weaver for 30 years,” said Marsh, who holds a Ph.D. from Purdue University in American Studies, specializing in using the fiber and textile industry as a tool for community development.

Marsh weaves locally produced fibers into clothing, scarves and blankets for farmers to sell or for wholesale customers.

She said she had carved out a place for herself in a multi-faceted industry.

“My goal is to produce middle-class clothes, sort of middle-brows, that people will actually wear instead of giving as wedding gifts,” she said.

Marsh said there is a strong local network between breeders and fiber producers, others who card, dye and spin the fiber and those who make clothes, but there is still plenty of room for the industry is growing.

Legislation that D-Round Lake MLA Carrie Woerner is spearheading to boost the textile industry is advancing rapidly.

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New York Textiles Act

Woerner introduced the New York Textile Act – A 9649 – on March 28, and the Assembly Economic Development Committee passed the legislation on Tuesday, moving it to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee for review, the latest stage before a vote of the Plenary Assembly. .

Senator Michelle Hinchey, D-Saugerties, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced related legislation in the Senate.

Industry trends show a growing demand for “sustainably produced” clothing made from sheep, goat and alpaca fibers, or grown from plants such as flax and hemp, Woerner said. .

“We’ve definitely seen consumer preference,” she said.

“It’s no different from the local food movement,” said Mary Jeanne Packer, owner of Battenkill Fibers, a Greenwich mill that employs 17 people who spin locally produced fibers into yarn.

Packer, who started the plant in 2009, said demand started to pick up around 2015 and “really exploded during the pandemic”.

One reason was that people who stayed at home took up knitting and weaving as a hobby, and another was that textile manufacturers had difficulty importing yarn from foreign countries.

The legislation would open up state economic development incentives and state Department of Agriculture marketing and technical assistance programs to the textile industry, with the goal of attracting production operations and textile manufacturing in the Hudson Valley and lower Adirondacks, which, in turn, would increase the demand for locally raised or grown fiber.

Pickling plants

Packer, of Battenkill Fibers, said she is already working with the Hudson Valley Textile Project to develop a fiber scouring facility locally, possibly in Greenwich or Schuylerville.

Scrubbing is a process of repeatedly washing and pressing fibers to remove dirt and impurities, using equipment similar to an oversized ringer washing machine.

The nearest scouring facility is now in South Carolina, and trucking local fiber back and forth has become prohibitively expensive with high fuel prices.

“It’s just not smart to haul wool back and forth,” Packer said.

A regional dyehouse would also be helpful, she said.

A dyehouse in Pennsylvania that many local growers used was recently flooded and it is not expected to reopen, said Marsh, the Queensbury weaver.

Alpacas were on display during the recent Washington County Fiber Tour weekend. Here, several of the animals take an interest in a visitor to the Dandy Gander Farm in North Granville. Wool from alpacas is used in the manufacture of woven and knitted items.

Lisa Lehman, special for The Post-Star

Another need is a local fiber warehouse, where fiber could be stored as it is produced to meet large orders as needed.

Textile companies’ production schedules, which are unpredictable, often have a short window of time to fill.

Without a local warehouse, local suppliers must race from farm to farm to fill an order, a chaotic and inefficient process, Packer said.

textile center

Ideally, if Woerner’s legislation is passed, it would lead to the development of a local “textile hub,” which would house one or more of these operations and provide space for weavers on a commercial scale, Packer said.

Woerner said growing fiber can be a critical part of preventing the redevelopment of farmland, as traditional dairy farms struggle to survive.

“These are ‘value-added’ opportunities that keep the land in production,” she said. “It’s a growing sector and we’re really ready to participate.

There are plenty of untapped opportunities for those willing to work hard, said Faith Perkins, co-owner of Quarry Ridge Alpacas in Salem.

There were once six or seven alpaca breeders in the area, and now there are two, said Perkins, who breeds alpacas, spins the fiber into yarn, dyes it, and knits and crochets it into it. clothes.

She sells yarn and clothes at a store on her farm and at fiber festivals.

“It requires someone to do the work, not just love the cute animals,” said Perkins, who shorn 13 alpacas on Tuesday. “Alpacas are bred for a purpose, and that’s to use the fiber.”

No new spending

The legislation has no fiscal impact, as it does not introduce any new state expenditure.

It simply revises the language of existing laws or the parameters of existing programs to incorporate the textile industry.

Woerner said local fiber growers now sell fiber to manufacturers as far away as Montana and Georgia.

Officials could offer incentives to those manufacturers to open additional manufacturing plants in New York.

“That’s really the goal — to say, ‘You like our fiber. Come, be close to her,” she said.

Officials would also promote the use of local fiber to the New York City fashion industry and provide training on the state’s procurement process.

Glove-knitting companies, for example, would be notified when the state Department of Environmental Conservation is considering purchasing gloves for rangers, and companies would be instructed on how to bid, explained Woerner.

Secondary Benefits

The development of the textile industry has secondary advantages.

“Goats and sheep are not only an important part of the economy, but also a tourist attraction,” said Laura Osgood, director of economic development for Washington County.

There are environmental benefits, Woerner said.

“Hemp, like Christmas trees, absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces,” she said.

Incentives and promoting economic development are important, but there’s another challenge, Packer said.

The textile industry, like most other industries, is facing a labor shortage.

Packer suggested that local school districts develop a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum for the textile industry.

Another option is to retrain workers who no longer have jobs in the paper industry.

“It’s very similar to the paper industry – a lot of gears are turning,” she said.

Maury Thompson has covered local government and politics for The Post Star for 21 years before retiring in 2017. He continues to follow regional politics as a freelance writer.