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Vaughan-Bassett Furniture is one of few furniture manufacturers that have overcome challenges, faring well through the economic storm.
And for the past five or six months, the company has been growing quickly — so quickly that it plans to expand into the former Webb Furniture plant next door.
Vaughan-Bassett bought the vacant Webb Furniture #1 plant on Railroad Avenue about a month ago. It has been vacant since closing in January 2006 and laying off 300 workers.
The once idle plant is now undergoing cleanup, several cars are parked in front of the facility and a piece of equipment has been relocated from Vaughan-Bassett’s Elkin, N.C., plant to the former Webb plant and workers are already operating it.
By March, about 20 workers should be hired, and then 50 by July, as part of Vaughan-Bassett’s plan to hire 115 workers over the next three years and invest $8 million. The company is receiving local and state incentives.
“Since the financial crisis in 2008 — with the stock market hitting its low point in 2009 — we feel like this is the first time since the recession that we’re on track for sustained growth,” said Wyatt Bassett, president and CEO.
The company’s sales grew by 19 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011, which ended on Dec. 3. Vaughan-Bassett had sales of $84 million in 2011. Orders and sales are up more than 20 percent for the first six weeks of the 2012 fiscal year.
Vaughan-Bassett is the largest wooden bedroom manufacturer in the U.S., employing 675.
Wyatt Bassett said several factors have kept the company competitive, including having state-of-the-art technology. “We’re the only guy left in the price range that is a volume producer of wooden bedroom furniture in the U.S. — that’s the biggest factor,” he said, of how the company has remained profitable.
While confident that Vaughan-Bassett will maintain steady growth, Bassett said the company may see some soft patches along the way. However, if business is a little better than a year ago, the company is headed for a strong recovery, he said.
“Through the toughest of business, we continue to invest in state-of-the-art equipment, and we’re fortunate to be in a community where people are hardworking, smart and tenacious,” said Wyatt Bassett. “This crowd never backed down or gave up hope.”
Domestic products are climbing back up. Bassett said that when customers have the choice between imports sold at cheaper prices and a domestic product, sold at 5 or 10 percent more, they are going with domestic products.
The quality, variety of styles and finishes and speed of delivery have also allowed the company to keep its competitive advantage.
Doug Bassett, Wyatt’s brother and chief operating officer of Vaughan-Bassett, said the company has been able to offer bedroom sets that are competitive with imports.
“That’s been a huge advantage,” Doug Bassett said. “And a lot of that credit goes to the workforce and equipment.”
Vaughan-Bassett operates without debt and keeps a strong balance sheet. “We’re not worried about how we’re going to pay the bills a month from now or a few months from now,” said Wyatt Bassett.
While the new expansion is going to be pricey in the short-run, Wyatt Bassett said he’s confident that it will pay off in the long term. Some equipment will be relocated and some new equipment will be purchased to expand the “rough end” operations, where lumber is graded and wood pieces for furniture are made.
Vaughan-Bassett is receiving incentives and support for the plant reopening and expansion project from local and state incentive programs. The company will receive approximately $56,250 in incentives from the City of Galax, $200,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund and $75,000 from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program for adding 115 jobs over the next three years.