The South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance (SCMA), a powerful networking, information, and lobbying group for the state’s varied manufacturing industries, began as an organization for cotton mill owners in 1902. The mill owners, who began meeting informally to discuss common problems, such as production, availability of labor, and work hours, eventually formed the Cotton Manufacturers Association of South Carolina. The association launched a membership drive in 1926 and soon boasted twenty-one working committees, including the Cotton Committee, which sponsored the popular annual Maid of Cotton contest. The group’s first paid lobbyist was hired in the late 1920s, and the association eventually became a visible and powerful voice for the textile industry. The organization supported laws for compulsory education, encouraged reduction of taxes on mills, opposed employing children under age fourteen, and opposed a legislated forty-hour workweek during the 1930s. During World War II the association launched a publicity campaign touting the importance of textiles for the war effort.
In 1951 the organization became the South Carolina Textile Manufacturers Association (SCTMA). SCTMA leaders, particularly John K. Cauthen, who served as executive vice president from 1945 to 1970, helped transform postwar South Carolina from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy. They guided state leaders in developing plans to attract new and diverse industry. Additional concerns of SCTMA in the latter half of the twentieth century included improving education, particularly the state’s technical-school system; reducing taxes on mills; reducing power rates; environmental issues; and increasing tariff duties on imported products. In addition to lobbying, SCTMA continued to provide forums for the exchange of ideas among managers of the industry.
In 1996 SCTMA transformed itself into the broader-based South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance, whose members represented all manufacturing industries in the state. By 2001 forty-three percent of SCMA’s approximately 85,000 members were managers from nontextile industries.
“SCMA 100th Anniversary.” Southern Textile News 58 (May 13, 2002).