Vaughan-Bassett re-opens part of Elkin plant

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By April Wright, Reporter

Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. will reopen a portion of its Elkin, N.C., factory and distribution center later this month, which will employ about 40 people by the end of September.

The company plans to increase the Elkin plant's employment to about 50 by the end of November.

Wyatt Bassett, president and CEO of Vaughan-Bassett, said that the company's incoming orders are outpacing production at its Galax factory, making the expansion necessary.

“We're pleased that our business is strong enough to warrant this move,” Bassett said.

Vaughan-Bassett had mothballed the Elkin factory in January, eliminating 400 jobs. However, the company chose not to sell the factory or its machinery to preserve the option of reopening when business conditions improved.

“Our first step will be to assemble and finish selected pieces from all our collections at our Elkin factory,” he added. “We will also machine some parts in our Elkin Machine Room to supplement our parts-making production in Galax.”

Some of the jobs will be filled by Vaughan-Bassett employees from the Elkin area who were transferred to Galax when the North Carolina plant shut down. These employees have been making an 80-mile round-trip commute for most of this year.

Many of the new jobs, however, will require new hiring for the Elkin factory.

In addition, the Galax factory will need to fill job openings created by the people transferring from Galax back to Elkin.

There are nearly two dozen that commute from Elkin to Galax's Vaughan-Bassett plant. However, Doug Bassett, executive vice president of sales, said he is unsure how many will be transferred back to Elkin and the figures will not be available for a couple of weeks.

“If we have a job available in Elkin that they're doing up here, they will be the first people that will be given the opportunity to return to the Elkin plant,” said Doug Bassett. “And for each one that does return to Elkin, that will create a new opening in Galax.”

Wyatt Bassett said this move indicates that Vaughan-Bassett remains committed to producing its products in the United States.

Earlier this year, Vaughan-Bassett announced an agreement with Virginia to add 100 jobs in its Galax plant over the next three years. The company has already added 65 jobs in Galax in the last seven months.

Doug Bassett said the company's business has increased by 10 percent since late spring. However, he believes, the overall economic state of the furniture industry is not improving just yet.

“We think our ability to deliver quickly — within seven days to two-thirds of the eastern states — one bedroom suite at a time, compared to an Asian company that's trying to sell container loads, is the primary reason for the improvements at Vaughan-Bassett,” he said.

The Galax plant has been running full-time since January, and some departments have been working overtime for nearly four months.

Vaughan-Bassett is the largest wooden adult bedroom manufacturer in the United States, with 2008 sales of more than $98 million.

More than 97 percent of its bedroom pieces are manufactured in the U.S. and less than 3 percent are imported. As of August, Vaughan-Bassett had 680 employees.

“We're delighted by the reopening of the Elkin plant, and we're glad we're going to be able to create jobs in Elkin and Galax,” Doug Bassett said. “There's good people that need a job right now, and we're pleased to fill that need.”