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Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Company says the Galax plant will have to increase production and employees will go back to working on a full-time schedule, as the Elkin, N.C., factory closes down, resulting in 400 people losing their jobs.
“We are now facing both Asian competition and a severe and possibly prolonged recession, producing the worst slump in the furniture business in at least 30 years,” said Wyatt Bassett, president and chief executive officer.
Earlier this year the company’s sales were down by four percent. But John Bassett III, CEO of Vaughan-Bassett, said that this year’s sales dramatically fell by 30 percent in the past couple of months, allowing just enough sales to keep the Galax plant going at full speed.
The Galax factory on Railroad Avenue employs 600.
A small crew will maintain the equipment and Elkin facility while the factory is inactive, with the hope that the plant will one day return to producing furniture. By keeping both the factory and equipment intact and in running condition, it will allow Vaughan-Bassett to reopen a portion or all of the facility if demand returns to normal levels.
The Galax plant is under a hiring freeze, but if conditions warrant lifting the ban, preference will go first to Elkin employees.
John Bassett said employees of the Elkin and Galax plants have been working on short time since September, but the closing of the North Carolina-based plant will mean more work for Vaughan-Bassett’s Galax employees, who will go back to working full-time.
“We’re much better at mothballing the Elkin plant to just wait it out and running the Galax plant wide open,” he told The Gazette. “We’re in the midst of a recession, but at least we’re able to keep production in another American plant instead of shipping it overseas.”
Employees and work in the Elkin plant will be phased out by Jan. 30.
Vaughan-Bassett began work in the Elkin plant in the late 1950s.
John Bassett said the reason for closing that factory instead of the one in Galax is because the Galax factory is much larger, allowing it to absorb the production. There are no plans to close the Galax factory, he said.
“This is a sad time when we have to close one of our plants,” he continued. “It’s not a happy moment, but we did what we needed to do.”
Vaughan-Bassett will apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance with the U.S. Department of Labor for affected employees. Workers qualifying for TAA may be eligible for extended unemployment compensation, relocation allowances, job search allowances and a health coverage tax credit. The process may take up to six months for approval.
In addition, the company will work closely with the North Carolina Employment Security Commission to provide career counseling, job referral and other services to the affected employees.
The firm’s two warehouses — in Elkin and Boonville, N.C. — will remain open.
Vaughan-Bassett was founded in 1919 and is headquartered in Galax. It is now the largest manufacturer of wooden adult bedroom furniture in the United States, and has no manufacturing facilities outside the United States.