On January 27th, 30th Anniversary of US-Mongolia Diplomatic Relations
My Journey To Mongolia (about Mongol- Amicale)
By James S. Pigg
I began my work career with Woonsocket Spinning Company in Charlotte, North Carolina – it was a subsidiary of Amicale Industries headquartered in New York City.
We specialized in Cashmere, Camel and Yak Hair. We de-haired it (removed the coarse guard hair –Kemp) leaving only the fine fleece – after this we further processed it. Dying, carding, spinning and winding it into yarn for weaving or knitting into sweaters, sport coats and other high end clothing goods.
We also had factories in Pennsylvania to further process cloth from weaving and finishing as well as one in Bradford, England to help with the European market.
We imported all of our raw materials from faraway places like Iraq, Afghanistan, China and Mongolia.
With the breakup of the former Soviet Union and the formation of Democracy in Mongolia, some rules about exporting raw Cashmere, Camel and Yak Hair were changing – to insure a continued supply of raw material, Amicale in conjunction with the new Mongolian Government set up a Joint Venture Mongol – Amicale using Foreign Aid Funds to help pay for the venture.
The first phase was started in the early 90’s setting up regional warehouses to purchase Cashmere, Camel and Yak Hair directly from the herders – as well as setting up the first production phase by installing Sorting, Opening, Scouring and Baling machinery.
By early 1994 we were gearing up our machine building operations in Charlotte to export to Mongolia. We built all of our De-hairing Equipment ourselves, I had redesigned the machinery over the years to increase throughput, reduce downtime and increase the length of fiber produced.
At that time shipping companies did not have terminals in Mongolia, so all of our goods had to be shipped in containers that were purchased and would stay in Mongolia. We purchased and shipped a large amount of containers with equipment and supplies. After the containers were empty we sold them to individuals and companies in Mongolia for use as garages or storage buildings.
When I first went to Mongolia I did not know quite what to expect. I soon came to realize that the people were very open, hospitable and kind. The country was going through a transformation that had created economic hardships for the majority of their citizens, yet they were very upbeat and optimistic about their future.
One of the things that surprised me in Mongolia was the high level of education that the people we hired for manufacturing positions had achieved, almost all had Bachelor Degrees and some had their Masters. In the States at that time most of manufacturing positions were filled by people with only a High School education or less, this was a reflection of the economic conditions of Mongolia.
(During my time in Mongolia I met my future wife who worked with Mongol Amicale as well, Uzmee - we have two beautiful daughters, Tergel and Catherine; we also have a beautiful granddaughter Kari.)
We had our official Grand Opening in April of 1995 with President Ochirbat and many Mongolian dignitaries as well as Donald Johnson, the American Ambassador, and representatives from the State Department and World Bank in attendance.
Once up and running several issues came up influencing our ability to run 24 hours a day with three shifts – a lot of our people lived in the outlying Ger Districts and experienced issues getting to work – we had several Korean Micro buses put in service to pick them up and drop them off when their shift finished. We also installed a cafeteria to insure they would have warm nutritious food to eat. We set up a clinic in our plant stocked with medicines and staffed by a doctor to make sure they would have access to speedy medical care.
One of our Rep Office Administrators, Minjuur was a great help finding good people for our company, he was well known and respected throughout the country. I considered him a personal friend. He gave us a lot of good advice and help dealing with the red tape that you have to contend with dealing with the government.
We were involved with our community in Mongolia, sponsoring Wrestling Competitions as well as some of the wrestlers, Osohbayar was sponsored by us and went on to become champion. My wife and I were invited to his wedding in the Big Ger Hall and had the opportunity to meet his family and friends.
We also sponsored studies to improve the Cashmere breeds and worked with the Universities and government entities to help the herders maintain their animals.
I had the opportunity to go wolf hunting in Choi Balsan with Donald Johnson the American Ambassador, as well as the Ambassador from Korea and the French Diplomatic envoys as well as a group of Ex Pats and some of the local Soum people – I managed to get two wolves over three days. It was an interesting trip – we flew by helicopter from UB to there and traveled by Jaran-es to hunt the wolves, as well as getting some from the Helicopter itself.
Several years after that I had the opportunity to return to Choi Balsan to look at some equipment at a closed carpet factory to see if we could re-purpose some of it. This time three engineers and myself drove there and back. On our return trip we left late in the evening planning on driving through the night – our navigator had a little too much vodka and went to sleep. I noticed that the constellations were on the opposite side of where they should be based on our trip in – had the driver to stop at a Ger and ask directions to make sure – we were heading in the opposite direction of where we should be – toward the Russian border – we turned around and got back on the right course.
I was always impressed by the Mongolian people especially in the country side – they would always offer you the hospitality of their Ger, give you milk tea and food as well as offer you a place to sleep.
Alphonse F. LaPorta, the American Ambassador at that time was in Attendance as well as other Mongolian dignitaries.
We left Mongolia in early 1999 with our two young daughters and came back to Charlotte to live. The company I helped build in Mongolia is still there – it changed ownership and was renamed around 2003 to Goyo Cashmere Company.
While my wife and daughters have had the opportunity to return and visit Mongolia I have yet to return, in a few years when I retire I would like to live in Mongolia again – I have a lot of respect and feelings for the people of Mongolia.
James S. Pigg
Mongol-Amicale Grand Opening 1995 with Ambassador Donald Johnson.
Dornod aimag Herlen Bars 1996