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A glowing success: McDuffie company finds unusual niche in textile industry

There's a Thomson textile company spinning yarns that might be worthy of tall-tale status.

score4a.jpg

Score Technology Principal Bob Brown shines a laser on thread designed to be used in designer clothing as an authenticating tool.
Photo by Jason B. Smith
But seeing is believing.

Some fibers glow in the dark, others luminesce when hit with a special light beam, and others can prevent static in carpeting.

All are the products of Score Technology Inc., founded in 1998 by two industry veterans looking for the freedom to create and market their ideas for new types of textiles.

The hardest part of selling their unusual products has been educating potential buyers.

"The customers in most cases have never seen anything like it," said company principal Bob Brown, who worked for years as a researcher for several textile companies.

score1.jpg

Plant Manager Chad Smith checks a machine spooling thread at the Score plant in McDuffie County.
Photo by Jason B. Smith
The products have enticed enough customers to bring mostly double-digit sales growth every year the company has been in business, Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Brown focuses on research and development while partner Greg Hart builds and operates the precision machinery at the company's 10,000-square-foot facility on U.S. Highway 78.

"It's a good pairing; he's the practical one, and I'm the dreamer," Mr. Brown said.

With 18 employees, the two have carved out a niche in a few small but lucrative segments of the textile market.

One fiber Score makes gets stronger as it warms, which is perfect for upholstering seats in places such as offices, movie theaters and churches, Mr. Hart said.

"If a lady gets up from a pew after church, then she doesn't have fuzz on her dress," he said.

The long-lasting fiber is used by Atlanta-based Interface Inc. to cover everything from office chairs to movie theater seats.

"They are very innovative problem solvers. They bring to the table a valuable technology that helps us to produce a good quality seating product," said Jack Jernigan, a process engineer with Interface subsidiary Interface Fabrics Inc., of Elkins, N.C.

Score also produces a light-sensitive "security fiber" that is sewn into designer clothing to discourage counterfeiting. Employees check for knockoffs by pointing a special light beam at the fabric; if it glows, it's authentic.

Although Score's anti-static fiber has been the company's top product over the years, Mr. Brown said he expects security fibers to have high growth potential. Other uses for the security fibers include embedding them in sensitive documents or currency, he said.

Mr. Brown said that innovation is what will keep Score and other U.S. textile companies alive in an industry that's steadily shifting production to low-cost factories in China.

According to the American Textile Manufacturers Institute in Washington, Georgia has lost 20,000 textile industry jobs since 1996.

"If you look at the textile market, there may not be a cotton mill in Georgia 20 years from now, and if there is they'll be doing something very special," Mr. Brown said.



Web posted on Thursday, February 17, 2005











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