Industrial Commons: Going Green to Revitalize Southern Appalachian Textile Manufacturing 

ARC’s Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies (ARISE) is a funding opportunity driving large-scale, regional economic transformation through multi-state collaborative projects. Launched in 2022 using funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, ARISE is strengthening Appalachian businesses and industries, and supporting the development of new opportunities across the region. 

One such industry is textile manufacturing, which North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee are bringing back — and making more sustainable — thanks to The Industrial Commons (TIC) and their project, Accelerating the Green Textile Economy in Southern Appalachia.  

Constructing an Innovation Campus 

A $10 million ARISE grant will fund the construction of a new 40,000-square-foot textile upcycling facility in Morganton, North Carolina, which will include manufacturing space, office and meeting space, and a dedicated workforce training space. The facility is the first of several phases to establish The Innovation Campus, which will serve as a regional hub for circular textile manufacturing and circular supply chains in Southern Appalachia.  

TIC and its network of partners – including Material Return, the Carolina Textile District, Smartwool(R), Carolina Cotton Works, Renfro Brands, and Western Piedmont Council of Governments – will scale their circular textile manufacturing supply chain to recycle and re-use waste to create new consumer products.  

“Employment in the textile sector has stabilized in our region and is even showing a slight increase,” said Sara Chester, co- executive director of TIC. “We need to create the ability for the US to remain not only competitive in the global textile industry but lead the way in terms of using recycled textiles in manufacturing.”

The space, services, and technical assistance provided by the Innovation Campus will allow smaller and mid-sized entrepreneurs and manufacturers to work together on larger contract opportunities.  

Training a Textile Workforce

The ARISE funding will allow TIC to expand its suite of training opportunities and services for textile entrepreneurs, companies, and cooperatives, providing essential manufacturing space, training, and support to help more textile businesses grow and thrive in the region. The project will also enhance regional textile supply-chain networking opportunities, helping connect more textile manufacturers with circular supply chain partners. 

In addition, the project will help create a pipeline of workers for new green textile manufacturing opportunities by providing educational and mentorship programs at the new facility for students interested in advanced manufacturing.  TIC will also offer industrial sewing and upholstery training to upskill or reskill adult workers in the region. 

Over the next five years, TIC expects the project to create 81 new jobs, retain 537 jobs, leverage $4.6 million in private investment, improve 7 businesses and 12 communities, and prepare more than 450 students and workers to participate in and grow green textile manufacturing in Southern Appalachia. 

We’re proud to support multi-state projects that strengthen the growth of new business and opportunity in Appalachia! 

ARC is grateful to the Biden-Harris Administration for their historic investment to bolster infrastructure in America, which has allowed us to support important projects across Appalachia. Learn more about the BIL here.