Preproduction services are a promising market niche for the Dominican textile and apparel industry. A new garment preproduction training center located in the Santiago Industrial Free Zone is teaching apparel workers how to design patterns and make samples and markers so the firms they work for can meet heightened competition.
Since it opened last summer, the Santiago training center has trained 12 workers; another 50 will be trained by the end of 2006. The $1.2 million center was made possible through a public–private partnership facilitated by Nathan Associates with USAID support under the Trade Capacity Building project (www.tcb-project.com).
Textile and apparel exports account for $2.1 billion in export earnings, more than one-third of the Dominican Republic’s exports, and are the source of livelihood for many Dominicans. But when U.S. and European textile import ceiling quotas were lifted in 2005, apparel exporters from Asia began competing directly with producers like the Dominican Republic that had benefited from the quota system. Deep reductions in textile exports from the Dominican Republic’s free zones are likely if the country’s textile and apparel industry does not change tactics and find new market niches.
The Dominican Republic has many small and medium-sized businesses with simple cut and sew operations that will find it difficult to compete by reducing costs. The alternative is to increase product value by offering the preproduction services that many apparel buyers demand. These services include sourcing fabric and trim and developing patterns, samples, and markers.
To enable these small and medium-sized enerprises to provide such value-added services, the Santiago Industrial Free Zone Corporation, the Santiago Free Zone Industry Association, and the government-supported Professional Technical Training Institute formed a partnership to create and operate the Santiago training center. Besides facilitating the partnership, Nathan, with partner Werner International, designed the center, selected the building site, and oversaw construction of the additions; trained instructors and facility supervisors in preproduction skills such as design, pattern and marker making, and cutting; and prepared training materials and documentation on the proper use of equipment. Dominican partners provided the land, equipment, supplies, operating expenses, and personnel.
The skills taught in the Santiago training center will enable the Dominican apparel industry—so vital to the country’s economy—not only to retain clients but penetrate new markets and acquire new clients as well.