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Elite eight meet to discuss the future

Eight decorative fabric mill principals/CEOs met here last week to discuss how best to present the business' challenges in terms of regulatory issues, flammability regulations, intellectual property global violations and other issues.

"It was a very preliminary meeting, but we felt there was a need to bring key members of the decorative fabrics industry to discuss the significant issues facing the business," said Larry Liebenow, president and CEO of Quaker and one of the participants.

"How it evolves, and in what form, will be determined," Liebenow explained.

Liebenow and Hank Truslow, III, chairman and CEO of Sunbury will report back to the original group in a few weeks with their suggestions about the next steps.

Truslow added, "There is a very real need to get together on these issues. What the ATMI once served us now has changed because of reduced budgets and a major change in direction."

In fact, Truslow noted Hardy Poole, a key long time ATMI executive involved in these issues, now has joined the Boston-based National Textile Association to assist in these matters.

Truslow also is enthusiastic about bringing in decorative fabric converters and finishers to form a decorative fabrics council. "There are many areas where all of the decorative fabrics segments can agree," Truslow added. "We are excited that we will end up with a forum in some format. We all agreed that some action is needed, and we will come back and see what can be put together."

Liebenow added, "Clearly we're together in terms of the flammability issue. But it also is important to get 'true' free trade agreements as well as intellectual property and other trade issues."

Quaker has been providing technical support for the development of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) process on flammability, he added.

From Valdese's viewpoint, "We have a lot of pressing issues that are facing all of us," said Mike Shelton, president. "We need to identify the specific issues and make the points be known in the appropriate places. We still need to determine what voice we should have to give maximum credibility. We have to have a consensus in matters like trade issues and flammability."

Rob Culp, chairman and CEO of Culp, said, "From our point of view, we will do anything we can to help the industry. When it comes to regulatory issues, we all are in the same boat. We have to figure how to ensure a level playing field."

Regarding the flammability issue, Culp noted, "We worked together with the CPSC, but Larry and Quaker drove the work. We've made progress."

Irwin Gasner, president of Wearbest, said, "It was great to sit down with our peers, and it absolutely was a positive meeting. There are issues that affect all of us and they have to be addressed together."

Attending the meeting were CEOs and principals of Craftex, Culp, Quaker, Sunbury, Tietex, Valdese, Wearbest Sil-Tex, and Weave.

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