The red carpet is unfurled, the sign-in book is open and a line of sharply dressed greeters –boutonnieres pinned to their lapels –stands at the entrance of a huge tent draped in red and white fabric. Fashion show? Graduation ceremony? A little of both actually — and more.
We’ve travelled 65 miles from Shanghai to be here in the port city Nantong, China to celebrate the opening of Shaw Industry’s new carpet tile plant, a 210,000 square-foot manufacturing hub that has already begun to serve the Asia Pacific region with a wide range of completely recyclable, Cradle-to-Cradle-certified products. Hundreds of invited Shaw associates, clients and international designers have come from across the globe for the opening, which has also drawn a host of Shaw executives and Chinese government officials who have been intimately involved with the plant’s creation from the very beginning.
All this pomp is relatively new for Shaw, but it’s a tradition in China, where new businesses go all out to celebrate the affair with banners, floral arrangements and banquets. And like at the opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics, Shaw’s event is steeped in the celebration of Chinese culture.
Indeed, once the guests find their seats, a dozen female drummers in traditional Chinese opera costumes and vibrant headdresses unleash a thundering percussion on instruments the size of wine barrels, followed by a burst of applause from the audience.
For those present, especially the Shaw executives who have worked long day and — thanks to multiple time zones — nights for the past several years, today’s ceremony represents the end of one journey and the beginning of the next. The timing comes as summer turns into fall, the season of harvest, a fitting moment to mark the occasion.
Shaw has invested $45 million in the Nantong plant, which will employ 250 people producing five million square yards of carpet tile for the Asia Pacific market, where the majority of carpet tile is sold outside of North America. With China the world’s third largest buyer of carpet tile — sales have grown 20% annually — locating the plant in Nantong not only gives Shaw access to the region, it provides an ideal setting for servicing customers across the country from a home nestled amid the city’s rich heritage in woven textiles.
None of this would have been possible without Shaw’s commitment the company’s core values of honesty integrity and passion — values that transcend borders and cultures. Such commitment has been essential to Shaw’s success around the globe, especially in China. “Though we are separated by thousands of kilometers and multiple languages, we are united in creating a better future,” Shaw Industries Chairman and CEO Vance Bell says in his remarks, noting the superb cooperation across the globe that led to this event. Bell is then joined by a select group of designers, Chinese officials, Shaw executives and associates on stage for the plant’s official inauguration. Each flips a switch that illuminates a light bulb, symbolizing one of ten success factors that built the plant, from confidence and local leadership to service and globalization.
A burst of glittering confetti suddenly filled the air as the crowd rose to its feet, cheering.
Shaw’s Director of Commercial Manufacturing, James Jarrett, who has spent many months in Nantong working on the plant, appreciates the Olympic-style celebration. “The excitement the Chinese put into ceremonies is on par with what I really feel,” he tells me. “All the dedication needed to become an Olympian is a lot like the dedication to this success.”