LILESVILLE — U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger stopped in Anson County on May 30 to tour Hornwood, Inc. and learn about the domestic textile industry.
Hornwood’s CEO, Chuck Horne, and his son and company chairman, Wesley Horne, led Pittenger in a tour through the factory.
Pittenger learned how the fabric is made, dyed, tested for colorfastness, where the products ultimately end up, and more.
Machines whirled and buzzed to create the fabric, and turned on rollers as mechanical arms scanned the fabric for defects. Hornwood creates the products for a variety of markets: athletic apparel, fire-retardant banners, automotive fabric, medical bandages and much more, according to its website. Chuck Horne pointed to one gray roll of fabric destined to go inside combat boots.
Wesley Horne took the congressman through the lab, showing him the washing machines that test the fabric’s colorfastness and durability, as well as color cards as examples of target hues the company has to match if the customer needs it. There’s very little room for error finding the perfect color.
“This part of the process always fascinates me because it’s as much an art as it is a science,” Wesley Horne said.
“Who thinks this stuff up?” Pittenger asked as he looked over the variety of equipment used just to perfect the color.
After the tour, Pittenger introduced himself to a group of about 25 partners — Wesley Horne said the company doesn’t have employees and is a profit-sharing business — before opening the floor for questions.
“This is a great business model,” Pittenger said. “It was great to see what you accomplish here and what you do.”
Chuck Horne asked the first question, then several other partners followed.
One asked what Pittenger is doing to create jobs on the state level.
While Pittenger explained that he isn’t a state official, he said he believes reducing regulation and taxes for corporations will be the key to bringing industry to North Carolina and the United Sates as a whole.
“For example, in the ’70s we had a (high) percent rate, high inflation an unemployment,” Pittenger said. “(Former President Ronald) Reagan lowered the tax rates and regulatory burden.”
Within two years, the economy “took off,” the congressman said.
“We’ve restricted businesses from expanding because of the tax rate and regulatory burden,” he added.
One company partner asked whether the proposed Republican health care plan will have a requirement for individuals to have insurance, and if there will be a penalty for declining coverage.
Pittenger said the mandate was removed and the system will be competitive and market-driven.
Wesley Horne asked about the plan to reduce the national debt.
Pittenger said a debt clock in a room at the Capitol displays the amount, which is at $20 trillion as the country continues to bring in less than it owes.
“You can’t do that personally or in North Carolina, but for some reason you can do it with the federal government,” Pittenger said, adding that the budget needs balanced and services like Social Security — which one partner questioned the future of — and the interest on the national debt need to be addressed.
“We’ve got to boost the economy,” he said. “We’ve got to create more jobs, and make more tax revenue.” He said he believes that circles back to the need to reduce the corporate tax rate and regulatory burden.
During the tour, Wesley Horne told the congressman about the company’s plan to expand.
Last fall, Hornwood announced its plan to create King Charles Industries as a joint venture with Taiwan’s Kingwhale Corporation.
The company is expected to create 100 jobs, including the positions of operators, shift supervisors and warehouse personnel. According to a release last fall from former Gov. Pat McCrory’s office, the venture is expected to add nearly $2.8 million in annual salaries to the economy.
During the tour, Wesley Horne said that King Charles Industries will largely market to the military. It is expected to break ground this year.
After the tour, WesleyHorne said that he was glad the congressman had gotten to visit the facility. The joint venture planned to bring in 100 jobs to the county fits in with Pittenger’s plan, he said. He hopes lawmakers will move to make it mandatory for all U.S. agency clothing to be produced within the U.S. to boost the national textile industry.
“As the law stands now, just the military’s has to be sourced within the U.S.,” Wesley Horne said, adding that other agencies, such as the Secret Service and Coast Guard, should have to use materials produced within the country. Chuck Horne said he thought it ironic that the border patrol uniforms didn’t have to be produced from within the United States.
Currently, Hornwood’s expansion is focused on the military.
“We think it’s a tremendous opportunity because of the void in textile leadership right now,” Wesley said. “A lot of people are downsizing or shutting down, and we’re expanding.”
Reach reporter Imari Scarbrough at 704-994-5471 and follow her on Twitter @ImariScarbrough.