Not only is she herself a part, she oversees a great deal of its production in a very literal sense.
Margaret Schenck, executive vice president of United Knitting LP, was recognized Thursday night during the Chamber’s annual meeting.
She was presented the award by last year’s recipient, Steve Robinson of Cleveland Plywood.
Robinson said the award recognizes those who “take the opportunities and challenges presented them, and transform those opportunities into economic success.
“A true visionary, she sought to survive in a diminishing textile industry by championing the changes necessary to take the company to a world-class leader of manufacturing highly technical fabrics,” Robinson said.
Schenck was visibly moved by the presentation but gave the credit to her employees.
“It has been very difficult to stay in the textile industry in the last 20 years where everybody wants the cheapest and the quickest delivery,” Schenck said.
“The way United Knitting has done that is that our employees have stepped up and they developed the very best fabrics.”
She noted fabrics produced here are being used to make the clothes for the Olympic athletes in the Sochi Olympic Games starting next week.
“I’m not receiving this award for myself. I’m receiving this award for our wonderful employees who create and think about the job they do every day, and do the best job possible,” Schenck said.
The Chamber’s official statement reads as follows:
“In the spirit of the late M.C. Headrick, a visionary who tenaciously believed in the concept of free enterprise, Margaret Schenck has earned recognition as the 2014 recipient of the M.C. Headrick Free Enterprise Award.”
Schenck is the 34th recipient of the Headrick Award and only the fourth woman to receive it since its inception in 1981.
The Headrick Award, the highest and most prestigious award presented by the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, honors the memory of one of the most outstanding businessmen Cleveland/Bradley County has ever produced and one who believed wholeheartedly in the fundamental concepts of the free enterprise system.
“United Knitting is a business that requires an entrepreneur at the helm, and Margaret is one of the best,” nominator Glenda Epperson, director of human resources at the local industry, said of this year’s winner who exemplifies the free enterprise system.
Schenck was one of five general partners and founders who pooled their resources in March 1982 to launch United Knitting. The partners installed specialized equipment in a rented building to produce gussets for hosiery. Four years later, United Knitting was the first factory to break ground for its current facility in the Cleveland/Bradley Industrial Park off APD 40.
The company quickly expanded from gussets into other markets and became known for innovation and creativity. After 12 years in business, the privately owned company merged with Dyersburg Fabrics in 1994. But in 2001 Schenck and other investors purchased United Knitting from Dyersburg and returned United Knitting to a privately owned company.
“Through transitions from private to public and back to private, Margaret’s focus remained constant concerning the treatment, impact and loyalties to her employees and Bradley County,” Epperson said.
In her 31-year career with United Knitting, Schenck has embraced every opportunity to expand her knowledge and expertise to champion changes and challenges to propel United Knitting to being the recognized world leader in manufacturing knitted technical fabrics. The company maintains state-of-the-art knitting, dyeing and finishing facilities in the industrial park. Consistency, flexibility and conformity to requirements are top priority in developing high-quality, innovative fabrics with an emphasis on sustainability.
“She is one of the most knowledgeable people in the entire industry where stretch fabrics are concerned — a person who cannot be replaced,” Schenck’s nominator noted. “And one of her many strengths is her ability to communicate to our customers a strong sense of comfort regarding manufacturing capabilities and the company’s ability to perform to meet their needs.”
Today the company focuses its vertical resources in developing technologically innovative fabric systems and producing high-performance technical fabrics for such leading brands as Tommy Copper, Under Armour and North Face fleece, as well as fabrics for the U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy.
And from the outset of production of hosiery gussets to the innovative fabric solutions for the 21st century, this year’s award winner has been at the helm overseeing and implementing day-to-day operations.
United Knitting began with 10 employees, some of whom still remain with the company, and now employs 70. Schenck led the charge to manage and direct the transition of the textile jobs from laborers to highly skilled technical workers. She is widely recognized for her work ethic that inspires colleagues to exceed expectations.
“Employees admire and respect her straightforwardness and appreciate her honesty and hard work,” said Epperson, who has worked for United Knitting 15 years. “She treats employees fairly and gives constructive criticism and praises as the need arises. She is also known for her thought-provoking questions and problem solving.”
Epperson stressed, “She has played an integral role in the success of United Knitting.”
Professional and personal colleagues agree Schenck deserves recognition for her accomplishments as both an industry and a civic leader and as a motivator and mentor.
She was recently elected to the board of directors of Mallen Industries Inc., United Knitting’s parent industry. She has served on the board of directors for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, Bradley/Cleveland Industrial Development Board, SkyRidge Medical Center and United Way of Bradley County.
She has also served on the executive committee for Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region. She is a member of Cleveland Associated Industries and served the organization as president and past president.
She also is an active participant in the Empowering Women fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland and many other worthwhile causes.
“Her dedication to United Knitting and to the Bradley County community is foremost in her thoughts and efforts,” Epperson noted. “She is the ‘go-to’ person when something needs to get done.”
Schenck is also dedicated to her family. She and husband, David, have been married 45 years. They have a son, Andy, who is married to Claudia, and they have two grandchildren, Julia and Henry, who bring great joy to their grandparents.