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From Milliken: A Legacy in the Making

Spartanburg County's Longtime Commitment to Advancing Manufacturing

Published Tuesday, November 12, 2019 9:00 am

Manufacturing is an ever-present legacy in Spartanburg, South Carolina. From the turn-of-the-century textile mills of yesteryear to today’s advanced production facilities they would inspire, Spartanburg continues to be a mainstay in global manufacturing. The county has not only kept pace with the changing landscape of manufacturing capabilities and needs, but actively advances the exciting and challenging career paths manufacturing can offer.

Home to our global headquarters and a number of Milliken manufacturing facilities, the Spartanburg community helped propel Milliken into a globally respected company known for innovations used daily around the world. That’s because people who work in manufacturing are the makers of today—creators who use the latest technology to develop intuitive products that improve lives around the world. These makers help solve both life’s little challenges, like creating washable children’s markers or developing cloth napkins that clean easily and reduce paper waste, and globally felt challenges, like making 100% recycled content in new plastics possible.

Part of the vibrant character of Spartanburg, the maker-culture is rooted in the county’s DNA, creating more than 32,000 manufacturing jobs throughout the county (according to Upstate SC Alliance data from 2018). “We have a great sense of community pride that things are made in Spartanburg,” said Kyle Sox, director of business development of Spartanburg Economic Futures Group. “And that Spartanburg’s recognized as a maker place,” added Carter Smith, director of special projects at Spartanburg Economic Futures Group.

The continued technical advancement of manufacturing—and the positive impact manufacturers can have on a growing community like Spartanburg—means there is a wealth of talent opportunities in the industry. Manufacturing jobs are expected to continue to increase throughout 2019, and the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce sees an opportunity to tout these highly skilled, highly desirable, and high-paying jobs with good work-life balance to attract and keep young talent in the area. “The manufacturing jobs we see today are leaps and bounds away from the manufacturing jobs of their parents,” relates Craig Haydamack, senior vice president of human resources at Milliken & Company. “These positions offer exciting career paths that have the potential to make wide-reaching impacts.”

Sox said the Economic Futures Group partners with several organizations around the Upstate to ensure high school and college students are aware of the career paths offered by manufacturing companies. “Featuring manufacturers at events like the Upstate College and Career Showcase allows us to expose students early-on to the types of cutting-edge work being done by our regional manufacturing companies,” he continued.

Manufacturing also offers those with advanced degrees a challenging course of career. “Milliken probably has the highest concentration of PhDs at their campus here, one that could probably rival a lot of places in the Southeast,” added Smith.

The Spartanburg Chamber has made a deep commitment to advancing manufacturing within the community for the success of its citizens, businesses, and community at large.

The Spartanburg Chamber’s OneSpartanburg initiative, a five-year community and economic development strategy, is investing in county-wide talent attraction efforts. “Our new campaign, See Yourself in Spartanburg, targets talented professionals likely to consider relocating to Spartanburg, and touts Spartanburg’s opportunities, cost of living, and quality of place assets,” shared Naomi Sargent, director of strategic communications for the Spartanburg Chamber. “In addition to talent attraction efforts, we’re helping manufacturing companies think outside the box by partnering with local colleges to create mutually beneficial internships that develop and retain talent.”

These initiatives are working, too.

As manufacturing opportunities increase, so is the number of millennials flocking to the Hub City. Over the past five years, Spartanburg has seen tremendous growth in millennials—Headlight Data named Spartanburg the eighth small metro in the U.S. for millennial population growth, showing a 17.8% increase in the number of 25-34-year-olds in Spartanburg between 2012-2017. The reasons for this growth reflect the aspirations driving the career choices of young adults today.

“When we ask millennials why they chose Spartanburg, we hear about its collaborative community, its opportunities, and the ability for young professionals to make an impact personally and professionally,” Sargent continued.

“We’d like [millennials] to know there’s plenty of quality manufacturing jobs available,” Sox said. “Companies are interested in creating work environments that attract young people and families. They’re also very technical, requiring advanced skillsets and independent problem-solving and troubleshooting. It’s not a boring environment.”

The companies themselves aren’t boring, either.

According to Smith, Milliken has always had a tremendous role in Spartanburg’s community, starting with Roger Milliken’s influence with local airports, public venues, nonprofit organizations, and natural resource protection, including the well-known Milliken Arboretum.

“Number one, they’re a shining star as far as companies headquartered here that has continued to reinvent themselves,” Smith said. “Obviously, when you look around, their handprints are all over Spartanburg County.”

And careers in manufacturing are not limited to the traditional engineer role. With manufacturing comes product research and development, sales and marketing, business development, human resources, and more. Oftentimes at Milliken, associates who began in one discipline have the opportunity to join another, heightening career mobility, flexibility, and excitement while retaining the benefits of remaining with the same company over time.

The manufacturing industry is making tomorrow—and our dedicated communities, from our hometown of Spartanburg to Milliken facilities around the globe, are making it possible. Together, we’re positively impacting the world for generations to come.

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