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Person in white lab coat and protective headgear (blurred in background) looks closely at a COVID-19 testing swab going into a container.
Photo: Parkdale, Inc.
Business to Business
January 4, 2021

Producing a soft, yet strong, defense in the fight against the pandemic

Major players in the cotton industry pivot to manufacture testing swabs and personal protective equipment, with help from Wells Fargo.

Editor’s note: A version of this story is featured as part of The Way Ahead campaign on Bloomberg.com, which showcases Wells Fargo customers making an impact by addressing unprecedented times and successfully altering their businesses in light of lessons learned during the crisis. 

U.S. textile manufacturers have played an important role in providing key supplies during the pandemic. Their capabilities have been in demand for both personal protective equipment, or PPE, and swabs for COVID-19 testing.

In the spring of 2020, the White House reached out to Parkdale, Inc., a major U.S. cotton product manufacturer, with an ask to help. Unhesitant in their willingness to respond, the company and its subsidiaries, including U.S. Cotton, pivoted production to provide for the need, and Wells Fargo was in place to support the related capital needs. Through an accommodative loan structure and the management of a supportive bank group, Wells Fargo provided Parkdale and U.S. Cotton the flexibility needed to support their new pandemic-related contracts.

A tuft from the cotton plant with leaves is pictured against a white background
Cotton and textiles have been in high demand in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo: Parkdale, Inc.

Providing the products for frontline protection

In mid-March, Parkdale, Inc., a family-run textile company based in Gastonia, North Carolina, and the largest buyer of U.S. cotton in the world, responded to a call from the White House to help supply masks and medical gowns.

The company had idled workers and production due to business slowdowns, but as a key manufacturer with large-scale facilities, they were well-positioned to help. Wells Fargo had helped Parkdale secure the necessary credit support to maintain adequate liquidity while textile production lines were shut down, so the company was quickly able to ramp up again. Additionally, the bank’s capital helped the client quickly modify a portion of its product lines and establish a new supply chain to respond to the call.

Andy Warlick, CEO of Parkdale Mills, pictured in a frame with a factory line of textile products pictured in an inset box.
Andy Warlick, CEO of Parkdale Mills, within the parent company, Parkdale, Inc., talks about how his company, the largest buyer of cotton in the world and a Wells Fargo customer since 1969, ramped up production to manufacture more personal protective equipment (1:28) during the pandemic.

“Within 48 hours, we had contacted all of our partners in the supply chain,” said Davis Warlick, executive vice president of Parkdale and a Wells Fargo Commercial Banking client. And in 2 1/2 days, the company committed to making 600 million masks and 60 million gowns, allowing them to rehire thousands of factory workers who had been idled during the shutdown. 

“People who were typically making blue jeans, underwear, and T-shirts started working together to make face masks and gowns,” Warlick said.

“We were able to answer the call from the government and help thousands of U.S. textile workers get back to work, with support from Wells Fargo,” said Parkdale Mills CEO Andy Warlick. “It’s amazing when your banker calls up and says, ‘Whatever you need, we’re there for you.’ That’s all you need to hear.”

“We were able to answer the call from the government and help thousands of U.S. textile workers get back to work, with support from Wells Fargo. It’s amazing when your banker calls up and says, ‘Whatever you need, we’re there for you.’ That’s all you need to hear.” — Andy Warlick, Parkdale Mills CEO

Switching swabs puts U.S. Cotton to the test

Another important request came from the Food and Drug Administration, which sought a large quantity of cotton swabs for COVID-19 testing. U.S. Cotton, a subsidiary of Parkdale and the country’s largest manufacturer of cotton swabs, was positioned to provide that product, but needed to pivot from producing Q-tip®-style swabs to plastic sticks with a polyester tip for COVID-19 testing.

 

 

John Nims, CEO of U.S. Cotton, a subsidiary of Parkdale, Inc., pictured in a frame with Qtip style swabs pictured in an inset box
John Nims, CEO of U.S. Cotton, describes how the company modified its product (0:44) to respond to a call from the government and supply swabs for COVID-19 testing kits.

“We have a very clever and talented group of people in our Cleveland facility,” said U.S. Cotton CEO John Nims. “Once they understood the challenge, they quickly leaned into the entirely different process. I am thankful that we at U.S. Cotton had a way to be of service to the country.” Through the bank relationship with its parent company, Wells Fargo also helped U.S. Cotton secure the necessary credit support to respond to the call.

“During this time, you want a bank that can react quickly, listen to your needs, and meet those needs,” Nims said. “We’re so fortunate to be associated with Wells Fargo.”

Relationship Manager Corey Clamp helped lead Wells Fargo’s effort to assist Parkdale and U.S. Cotton. He noted the ongoing priority of supporting clients, especially as they pivot to address challenges presented by the pandemic and establish firm footing for the long term.

“It’s truly a great feeling when we are able to support our customers during these unprecedented times,” Clamp said. “In this case, it is an even better feeling to know we are supporting our country as well.”

“During this time, you want a bank that can react quickly, listen to your needs, and meet those needs, We’re so fortunate to be associated with Wells Fargo.” — John Nims, U.S. Cotton CEO
Three workers in a factory in masks, pictured side by side in three photos.
Parkdale Mills textile workers went back to work to help manufacture personal protective equipment in spring 2020.
Photo: Parkdale, Inc.
Wells Fargo responds to COVID-19

We’re taking action every day to support our employees, customers, and communities during this challenging time. Read about the actions we are taking, what our strategists are saying about market volatility, how to conduct banking from the safety of your home, and more. Explore the series >

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