The Industrial Commons: Carolina Textile District Pivots to PPE Production

Woman sews medical safety gear in light of COVID-19 in North Carolina
Eulalia Francisco, a sewer at Opportunity Threads in Morganton, North Carolina, is one of 600 regional sewers mobilized by The Industrial Commons to produce medical safety gear.

The Industrial Commons, based in Morganton, North Carolina, is a nonprofit developing interconnected social enterprises to solve problems for businesses and workers. The Carolina Textile District (CTD) was established in 2013 as an Industrial Commons enterprise to work directly with smaller and midsize textile manufacturers to build regional networks, supply chains, and meet other business needs of the industry. In 2015, CTD used ARC support to purchase industrial manufacturing equipment, including a state-of-the art textile cutter. CTD continued to grow its network and output. In April 2020, as the COVID crisis was beginning, an ARC investment helped CTD quickly purchase materials and coordinate staff to manufacture needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)—including face masks and medical gowns. The equipment was delivered to hospitals and social service agencies across the Region and the country. As of August, 2020, CTD coordinated 83 partners to produce 400,000 masks and gowns. In addition to meeting consumer demand, these efforts saved 60 jobs in the textile industry.

“During this extremely difficult time for our country, it has been heartening to see so many people and businesses step up to help, both in their own communities and beyond,” said Sara Chester, Co-Executive Director of the Industrial Commons.