A sign of its confidence in the spandex and polyamide fiber market and its commitment to U.S. manufacturing, RadiciSpandex Corp. is expanding production capacity at its Tuscaloosa, AL, manufacturing plant.
Apparel attended a press conference in March held as part of the firm's 10-year anniversary celebration for the plant. The operation is expanding for the fifth time since 1994, building production capacity to 7,000 tons of fiber per year. With the expansion, RadiciSpandex's Tuscaloosa and Gastonia, NC, factories combined will generate 15,000 tons of spandex and polyamide (nylon) fiber annually.
"We're making investments in Europe and the United States, while everyone else is investing in China," noted Paolo Antonietti, CEO of Radici Fibers, which like RadiciSpandex, is a part of Italy-based Radici Group. "The Radici Group firmly believes in the potential of the American and European industries."
Spandex demand is expected to reach more than 300,000 tons per year by 2020, and polyamide demand also is expected to strengthen in 10 to 15 years, Antonietti said. "Microfiber product enhancements, including antimicrobial, UVA and UVB protection properties, will boost the market upward," he noted
Increasing popularity of casual wear, active wear and sports apparel, as well as elastic and tight-fitting garments, also will drive demand, he said.
"The price of man-made fibers continues to decline," while prices of cotton and other natural fibers are increasing, Antonietti said. "The average price of cotton and the availability of cotton, especially in the Asian market, are higher and more difficult," he said.
In other observations on the Asian textile industry, Antonietti said Chinese production has many weaknesses, including long delivery times and lack of short runs. "[There's] only bulk production," he said. "The textile world is volatile. It is not always controlled by planning. We supply small orders that the Chinese cannot."
In addition to quick-response manufacturing capabilities, another reason for Radici's ongoing investment in its U.S. plants is a rise in demand from North American and South American customers, Antonietti said. "Spandex is very important in Central and South America," he noted.
Radici has invested approximately $85 million in the Alabama site, and "we're investing more," said Rob Rebello, CEO, RadiciSpandex (USA).