Attendees at IFAI’s Outlook Conference 2010, held April 26–27 at Pinehurst, N.C., were given a somewhat rosier picture for the specialty fabrics industry this year than they had received in past years. Dr. John Connaughton, UNC Charlotte, told the group that pent-up consumer demand and slow-growing consumer confidence will fuel some improvement in 2010, along with continued low interest rates and improving job growth. Not so promising, however, are the long-term nature of modern recession recovery (probably twice as long for this recession as the recovery following the 1982 recession) and the difficulty in obtaining business and consumer credit. The tight credit market can be attributed at least in part to the increase in excess bank reserves brought about by government actions in the bank closures of 2008. According to Dr. Connaughton, “Until the banks quit stockpiling cash in their vaults, the recession recovery will continue at its slow pace.” His advice: borrow now, if you can, because 3–4 percent inflation is coming.
There was also good news from Colonel Kurt Wilson, DSCP, who advised attendees that military shelter procurement for COTS tents will stay with Clothing and Textiles (C+T) rather than moving to the Construction and Engineering (C+E) group. The industry had pushed for this, feeling that C+E was less familiar with engineered fabric requirements for sophisticated shelters than C+T. Alasdair Carmichael of PCI Fibres returned to speak about trends in the specialty fiber markets; David Hart from PCI Fibres addressed specific market forecasts, predicting that fine denier polyester and nylon filament products have a better growth opportunity for U.S. companies, positing that Asian companies are not yet as skilled at making fine denier yarns rather than higher denier yarns. Panelists Auggie Tantillo of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), Cass Johnson from the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) and Steve Lamar with the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) discussed legislative and trade actions affecting the technical textiles industry.
Next year’s Outlook Conference, sponsored by IFAI’s United States Industrial Fabrics Institute (USIFI) and the Narrow Fabrics Institute (NFI), will take place May 2–3, 2011, at The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., U.S.A.