Cotton Links


Cotton School Opens Doors
To Careers

By Tommy Horton

Timing is everything. How many times have we heard that statement uttered to describe how careers are started? It could certainly be used to describe the International Cotton Institute at the University of Memphis and its impact on students.

The eight-week school, sponsored by the American Cotton Shippers Association, has brought together 50 attendees – representing 15 countries.

The school runs from May 27 until July 16 and provides a basic education in all aspects of the cotton industry – including production, futures trading, classing, risk management, processing, transportation and manufacturing.

One of the students enrolled this year – Meredith Frazer of Montgomery, Ala. – is a 23-year-old accountant with Allenberg Cotton. If her name sounds familiar, it should. She is the daughter of Stuart Frazer, president of Production Marketing Corp. of Montgomery, Ala.

After graduating from the University of Mississippi, Meredith thought she’d wind up being an accountant for a company – but not necessarily a cotton merchant. Although she grew up around cotton because of her father’s company, a career in cotton didn’t seem likely.

Fortunate Experience

Something unusual happened a year ago. Her father was one of the speakers at the International Cotton Institute’s graduation ceremony in Memphis, and Meredith accompanied him to the event.

Later she would attend a post-graduation reception, and that’s when she discovered two things – the value of the eight-week class and how exciting the cotton industry really is.

Today she finds herself immersed in this year’s class, making international friends and gaining a new perspective about cotton.

“I feel very fortunate to be a part of this year’s class, and I’m very grateful to Allenberg for giving me this opportunity,” says Meredith. “Although my background is as an accountant, I think it’s wonderful to learn more about this industry.”

When Meredith was working as an intern for a company in Montgomery, she enjoyed the experience, but she kept asking herself if this was the right career path. That’s when a friend suggested that she consider looking at the cotton industry one more time.

“Naturally, my father was thrilled that I was making this decision,” she adds. “And, like I said, I’m thankful to Allenberg for sending me to the International Cotton Institute along with other staffers from our company.”

Big Career Decisions

Meredith isn’t sure if she’ll wind up as a cotton trader someday, but she does know that she’ll be ready for whatever opportunity presents itself at Allenberg Cotton.

She has already learned more in a few weeks than she thought possible. For example, she better understands the futures market and classing. In addition, she has observed how cotton fiber is produced – beginning on the farm and ending at the spinning mill.

“I also have learned a lot by being in the class and hearing some great speakers,” she says.

“In fact, these people who give the lectures are quite inspiring. But I also have learned the importance of networking with other people and making important contacts.”

Although she has gained more knowledge about the other industry segments, Meredith now has a special appreciation for cotton producers. In fact, she dispels the myth about an adversarial relationship that might exist between producers and merchants. In her experiences, she has found a “family spirit” among the segments as opposed to mistrust.

“The way I look at it is that we’re all in this together,” she says. “We all need each other and that includes producers and merchants. I don’t think you necessarily find that in other commodities. That’s what makes the cotton industry so special.”

Bill Griffin, longtime coordinator of the cotton school, says it’s gratifying to know that such goodwill can be fostered during an eight-week academic experience. But it doesn’t really surprise him, because he sees it happen every year.

“This school helps build lifetime relationships, and you really can’t put a price tag on that,” he says. “It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767-4020 or thorton@onegrower.com. For more information about the International Cotton Institute, contact Bill Griffin at wgrifcot@cs.com or (901) 680-8281.


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