Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type



Moore School of Business

Director of Thesis

Dr. Douglas Woodward

First Reader

Dr. W. Matthew J. Simmons

Second Reader

Dr. W. Matthew J. Simmons


The decline of the Southern textile and apparel industries represent a unique and rich case study in rapid economic change. It is unique because of the speed and uniformity of collapse; rich, because of the geographic differences that exist even within the concentrated Piedmont textile cluster. Truly, globalization has hit this economic cluster with a brutal punch. And yet, not all cities and counties within the region have been equally harmed by the change.

This report concentrates on examining the socioeconomic variations that have taken place in the thirteen foremost textile-producing counties in South Carolina since the collapse, as well as a sample dataset of forty-seven other Southern counties. The history of the industry is briefly traced in order to provide a background for the historical assumptions made in the analysis. A defined set of indicator factors are then compiled into an economic vigor score for each county, tracking both their socioeconomic change since the apogee of the textile industry and their current situation. This score is then regressed against their job dependency on the industry in 1960. The results indicate that historical hyper-dependency on textiles has no bearing on the health of Southern Piedmont counties, although a strong correlation does exist for the South Carolina data. Three factors are identified as having a positive effect on the changing industrial environment of counties, both urban and rural: distance from a regional metropolis, population, and a concerted effort at economic diversification. Relative economic performance of these counties has thus been lopsided, often depending on these three factors, providing both a warning and encouragement for economic development elsewhere.

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© 2021, Jeremy Lewis Ward