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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          NEWS SERVICES
210 Pittsboro Street, Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-6210
(919) 962-2091   FAX: (919) 962-2279


For immediate use

May 11, 2004 -- No. 267

Local angles: Cabarrus, Gaston, Mecklenburg counties

Tar Heel Bus Tour to visit textile plants,
learn about Pillowtex closing, NASCAR

Thursday, May 13
Thirty-six new faculty and administrators from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will begin the fourth day of the 2004 Tar Heel Bus Tour with a visit to American & Efird Inc.

Participants will then travel to Pillowtex in Kannapolis, the site of the largest layoff in North Carolina history, to learn about related UNC research from a faculty member and to meet with community leaders and former Pillowtex employees. They will then travel to the Joe Gibbs Racing Shop, home of racing cup champion Bobby Labonte and his No. 18 car, in Huntersville. No still or video cameras will be permitted in the car shop.

Tour background:
The UNC group will travel more than 1,000 miles in a classroom on wheels to learn about distinctly North Carolina topics ranging from tobacco to stock car racing to an economy in transition. A week with 14 educational stops is designed to teach about North Carolina’s people, geography, economy, culture, history, education system and health and social issues. The privately funded tour, which began in 1997, aims to help new faculty and administrators better understand the state where 82 percent of Carolina undergraduates grow up. Participants will learn firsthand about the university’s commitment to North Carolina and the people it serves. Several stops will highlight UNC outreach projects. Faculty also will have opportunities to learn how their own research, teaching and public service activities tie in with the state’s needs.

During the week, participants will eat barbecue in Smithfield, visit a furniture factory in Lenoir, tour Grandfather Mountain, meet with health-care professionals in Dunn and Siler City, learn about Neuse River water quality, tour tobacco farms in Bunn and visit an elementary school in Greensboro to learn how the university’s Carolina Covenant, a new debt-free initiative for low-income students, is being received around the state. A detailed schedule can be found at

Accompanying the tour participants on this leg of the trip will be tour guide Ferrel Guillory, a lecturer in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and director of the Program on Southern Politics, Media and Public Life. Lynn Blanchard, director of the Carolina Center for Public Service, will serve as tour host.

Carolina connections: Cabarrus County is home to 254 Carolina students and 1,339 alumni; Gaston County to 243 students and 1,591 alumni; Mecklenburg County to 1,924 students and 13,731 alumni.

Thursday’s schedule, highlights:

10:15 a.m. American & Efird Inc., 22 American St., Mount Holly
American & Efird Inc. manufactures sewing thread for industrial and consumer markets, notions and trim items. It has produced thread for more than 100 years, growing into an international operation with a European headquarters in North Manchester, England. The company is the No. 1 producer of industrial and consumer sewing thread, supplying to major clothing manufacturers including The Gap and Victoria’s Secret. It was the first manufacturer in the United States to mercerize yarns, produce a 100 percent spun nylon lightweight fabric and to match colors by computer.

The company, a subsidiary of the Ruddick Corp. in Charlotte, has several plants in Mount Holly. Participants will tour the filament plant and the dyeing and finishing operation, where yarns are treated and dyed.

Participants will meet with several company officials, including Barry Chambers, corporate director of human resources, and plant managers James Allen and Chris Plemmons

12:30 p.m. Cannon Village Visitor’s Center, 200 West Avenue, Kannapolis
On July 30, 2003, Pillowtex closed 16 textile manufacturing and distribution facilities. More than 6,450 salaried and hourly workers, about 4,000 of them in Cabarrus and Rowan counties, lost their jobs. More than 1,500 employees lived in Kannapolis alone, making the city the center of the largest layoff in state history.

Pillowtex produced household textile products. It manufactured and marketed products including towels, sheets, rugs, blankets and pillows, mattress pads, feather beds, comforters and decorative bedroom and bathroom accessories.

Bus tour participants will learn about the changes Kannapolis and the state of North Carolina have faced as a result of the closing. They will take a drive through the former Pillowtex facility.

Those invited to join the group include former Pillowtex employees; Roger Shackelford, executive director of the Commission on Workforce Development in North Carolina; Mike Mahaney, city manager of Kannapolis; and Phyllis Beaver, director of public relations in Cannon Village, a home furnishings market.

Jonathan Morgan, an instructor in the UNC School of Government, will provide insight at the stop. His graduate students have been working at the site of another layoff and former bus tour visit, Stonecutter Mills in Spindale. He will put into context the significance of layoffs faced by Pillowtex and Stonecutter employees.

3:15 p.m. Joe Gibbs Racing Shop, 13415 Reese Blvd., Huntersville
No cameras will be allowed in the shop.

A study by the North Carolina Department of Commerce found that the motorsports industry contributed $392 million to the state’s economy and employed more than 4,000 people in 1996. By 2003 the study said that the figure had climbed to more than $1.5 billion and more than 10,000 jobs.

NASCAR racing is the second most popular sport in the United States. The mid-Carolina region has become a center for the race team industry with the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham and Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord.

The Joe Gibbs NASCAR racing team is the home of Bobby Labonte and the No. 18 car. Since the formation of Joe Gibbs Racing in 1991, he has won two of the last three NASCAR Winston Cup Series championships. The Joe Gibbs Racing shop in Huntersville is about the size of a football field and can hold up to 26 race cars.

Participants will be joined by Trisha Fuller, owner and operator of Race Shop Tours; J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing; and Ed McLean, executive director of the North Carolina Motorsports Association.

Interviews: Participants and tour organizers are expected to be available for print and broadcast interviews at stops. During the tour, call UNC News Services at (919) 962-2091 with questions about coverage, directions to tour stops or interviews.

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