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The furniture industry is making a comeback because the import business didn’t have the advantages that companies thought it would have.
That’s why industries are coming back to the United States, Mark Gosnell, Albany Industries vice president of operations in Galax, recently told a group of business leaders at the Crossroads Institute.
The Twin County Employer Advisory Committee and the Society for Human Resource Management held its annual meeting last week, with Gosnell as the keynote speaker.
The New Albany, Miss.-based company bought Vaughan Furniture’s former B.C. Vaughan plant and plans to create 335 new jobs for the area over three years. This is the result of a $2.5 million investment from local and state incentives for equipment, facility upgrades and job placement. The company will also invest $700,000 of its own funds in equipment.
Gosnell said he feels the nation is on the way out of this economic recession.
Albany Industries began in 1995 with 15 employees and only one customer, Rooms To Go. “And then it really exploded into growth mode in challenging times,” said Gosnell, noting that the company now employs 600 in six factories, including 30 people in its Galax plant so far.
Gosnell said the company chose to expand to Galax, which is of similar size to New Albany and a furniture hotbed, because of its proximity to the eastern states.
“The company looked hard in Virginia and North Carolina, and Galax was one of the last places they looked at after eliminating others,” he said. “It has a good core workforce, and the culture matches the culture of New Albany.”
Galax also matches the friendly environment that the company was looking for, he said.
Now that 30 people have been hired on, the company is searching for the best role that would fit each employee.
The company has begun putting on a new roof at the plant near Chestnut Creek. The company also is doing some grading to improve the entrance to bring in tractor trailers. Also, new dock doors are being constructed to allow for multiple trucks at one time. A new dust system is being installed.
“We’re trying to do everything as local as possible,” said Gosnell, noting that the company has used local businesses, such as E&L Diamond.
Training at the Galax-based plant began on Nov. 28. The next day, at 11 a.m., the first piece of furniture completed by the Galax plant came off the line.
“We had planned to begin production mid-December, but customers were wanting [products] before then,” said Gosnell. “So these pieces will be in retail stores before Christmas.”
With two lines running at the plant this month, a third line will be added in January. The plant will eventually have five production lines producing 6,000 furniture pieces a week.
“Having 325 employees is our goal, and we see no problem with reaching that,” he said. “We will get there sooner rather than later.”
Several temporary workers have been hired, but the company is planning to hire on those as permanent employees. About 100 people will be in place by January.