A World Without Cotton Incorporated?

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“I don’t want to live in a world without Cotton Incorporated. In 1973 when I was 13 years old, my parents made me wear a polyester leisure suit. It was terrible. That’s about the time Cotton Incorporated was established. If not for Cotton Incorporated, we could still be running around in polyester leisure suits.”

Those are the words of Drayton Mayers, new President and CEO of the Memphis-based Cotton Board. Mayers was named to the position on October 19, and began his duties on November 26. Mayers comes to the Cotton Board from Cotton Council International (CCI) — the export promotion arm of the National Cotton Council — where he served for the last 15 years. He replaces Bill Crawford, who resigned in January.

Through check-off dollars, the Cotton Board funds Cotton Incorporated’s research and development programs.

Mayers says his goals for the next six months to a year will be rudimentary: “I’d like to get my feet on steady ground and climb up the learning curve. I’d like to take stock of all the great things Cotton Incorporated has done while getting to know their staff and the staff of the Cotton Board. I’d like to establish a positive rapport with my board of directors and the board of Cotton Incorporated to ensure that I understand the role, the purpose and the mission of the Cotton Board and the Research & Promotion Program in general. I will make sure the Cotton Board continues its excellent record of collecting the funds that are being invested into this program by producers and importers of cotton and cotton products. I am aware of and want to continue the important oversight responsibilities of the Cotton Board as they pertain to Cotton Incorporated – filtering the right advice, making sure that Cotton Incorporated is investing that money in a manner that meets the needs, goals and objectives that cumulatively will lead to increased demand for and profitability of cotton.”

Return on Investment

Mayers says growers and importers are making a wise investment in Cotton Incorporated, and points to a 2006 study done by Texas A&M showing just how wise. “It showed that the producer is receiving a 5.7:1 return on investment, and the importer is getting a 14.4:1 return on investment,” he explains. “That’s a tremendous return. That tells me that Cotton Incorporated specifically, and the Research & Promotion Program in general, is doing a good job.”

Of the many projects Cotton Incorporated is involved in, two of the most important in today’s market are cementing the United States’ reputation as the premier producer and supplier of cotton to the world, and taking on chemical-based synthetic fibers.

“U.S. cotton still commands respect,” Mayers says. “U.S. cotton farmers can take pride in the cotton they grow.”

The United States also continues to have one of the best contract-sanctity reputations, which includes not only fiber quality, but reliability of just-in-time delivery. “Does the world see us as the most reliable supplier of cotton? I think so,” says Mayers. “But that was yesterday. We have to do that every day – today, tomorrow and for years to come.”

Taking Back Athletic-Wear Market

For the past few years, synthetic athletic wear has gained market share. Synthetics are light, and displace moisture well. Those characteristics have not been lost within Cotton Incorporated. “The consumer is interested in the performance and value of cotton products,” says Mayers. “One of the things I respect about Cotton Incorporated is their ability to improve those performance capabilities of cotton apparel. … There are new innovations being developed by Cotton Incorporated that will position cotton very competitively against chemical-based synthetic fibers.”

One well-known company working with Cotton Incorporated is Izod. Izod burst onto the sportswear scene in 1953, with its 100% cotton products. But recently Izod has been supplanted by companies using synthetic blends — Nike, adidas and Under Armour.

“Izod has adopted some of the new technologies and is rolling it out in some of its sports apparel,” Mayers says. “The consumer likes cotton’s naturalness, its feeling against the skin, its durability and its ability to give them comfort. Consumers tell us that they want performance capabilities, but they want them in 100% cotton products.”

Caption:
Cotton Incorporated’s Seal of Cotton is one of America’s most visible and well-respected trademarks.

Caption for photo:
Drayton Mayers

Gantz is the editor of Cotton Grower magazine. Over the years, he has won many National Agricultural Marketing Association awards, including two national NAMAs – one in advertising and one in public relations. Gantz brings hands-on experience, having worked as Sales Manager for an agricultural supply distributor in the Mississippi Delta.

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