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John W. Pope Executive-in-Residence Shares Experience with Next Generation of Textile Professionals

Auggie Tantillo presents at the Wilson College of Textiles

By Sarah Stone

Undergraduate and graduate students at the Wilson College of Textiles gained industry insight from this year’s John W. Pope Executive-in-Residence (EIR), Auggie Tantillo. 

The program, established through a donation by Pope in 1989, brings leaders in the textile industry to the Wilson College of Textiles for the day to speak to students, staff and faculty about their experience and expertise. Nearly 30 EIRs have visited campus in the last 15 years through the program. 

This year’s EIR, Auggie Tantillo, focused on the impact of globalization and economic policy on the textile industry in the United States. 

Highlights of Tantillo’s career in federal policy matters include serving as president of the National Council of Textile Organizations and executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition. He also worked for President George H.W. Bush as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Textiles, Apparel and Consumer Goods. Most recently, he founded SRG & Associates, a federal government consulting firm. 

In his classroom sessions, Tantillo spoke to students both in the undergraduate fashion and textile management program and the textile technology management program. He also gave a keynote address open to all students, staff and faculty. 

“Things don’t just happen by chance,” Tantillo said in his keynote. “Stable markets and fair conditions for competition within the marketplace are a function of good business decisions and sound government policies, which impact your ability to run a business and turn a profit.” 

He called on his experience in public policy formulation to share his insights on the overlap between globalization and policy and how that has impacted the textile industry. He asserted that while globalization hit the American textile industry hard in the 80s and 90s, it also caused the industry to adapt and modernize, preparing it for the stabilization and growth currently taking place in the domestic textile sector. 

“We went through a bit of an evolution in terms of industrial and technical applications, developing products for construction, automotive, aerospace, medical and military end-uses, by finding ways to take what manufacturers knew how to do and applying it in 100 different directions,” Tantillo said. “This is a huge growth area in our industry. Yes, we still make apparel-related yarns and fabrics, and those items are absolutely critical as they still comprise the majority of our business. But even companies that produce textiles for apparel are supplementing that core business with these growth areas.”

He urges students to keep pushing the textile industry forward by keeping an eye on policy issues and by continuing to engage in the policy arena to ensure that government decisions do not undermine U.S. textile industry investment, production and employment. 

“I’m just tremendously encouraged and enthusiastic about the work that’s being done at NC State and the enthusiasm level among students,” he said. “And that’s a good sign for the industry.”