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Vanguard experiences steady growth

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New furniture company in Carroll has 65 workers and plans to expand to 200

HILLSVILLE – Vanguard Furniture has experienced steady growth since it opened a plant last August in the Carroll County Industrial Park.

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During a recent visit to the facility by Carroll officials, plant manager Joe Bill Norman said Vanguard has 65 employees with plans to expand to 200 within the next three to five years, according to information issued by the county.

“We’ve been extremely proud of our workforce and the cooperation we’ve received from Carroll County and other officials,” he said. Norman has 41 years of experience in the furniture manufacturing business, many of those years at the now-closed Henredon Furniture plant in Mount Airy, N.C.

Vanguard opened in 2014 in the former Parkdale Mills building overlooking U.S. 58 and Interstate 77. Headquartered in Conover, N.C., the company has more than 500 employees and five manufacturing facilities, plus a 40,000-square-foot showroom in High Point, N.C.

According to Norman, Vanguard has about 50,000 different products in their line, and a little more than 2,000 fabrics and leather colors. He said the company can put any fabric or leather on any order.

The furniture is custom-made and everything they make is pre-sold.

In an announcement made last summer, Chief Financial Officer Joe Royall told the audience gathered at the Carroll County Governmental Center in Hillsville that, when Vanguard started looking for a place to expand, Virginia was the last place he thought the company would end up.

Company leaders first looked in the Mount Airy area, but every building they saw involved an obstacle that they felt couldn’t be overcome, Royall said then. When a broker he was speaking to about another building mentioned a site in Virginia and put him in touch with Carroll County Administrator Gary Larrowe, the pieces started coming together.

“I came up and looked at the building, which was very impressive…but I was more impressed with Gary, because of the story he had to tell about Carroll County and the state of Virginia,” Royall said. “After more discussion, the group finally settled on their new location. Moving to Virginia was not only the best path for Vanguard because of the operation, it was the best path for Vanguard, because of the partnerships we have with the Carroll County staff.”

The Carroll County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), Board of Supervisors and other groups worked on the project.

“I’ve worked on projects in North Carolina, New York and Alabama, and I can say without a doubt that each of those states has a lot to learn from the state of Virginia,” Royall said.

The Parkdale building was completely renovated and contains about 115,000 square feet of space on one level. Local contractors handled the renovations, along with members of the Carroll County maintenance staff.

Norman pointed out that the building has plenty of space to expand in the future.

During a tour of the plant, employees were busy working on the furniture, which included couches and chairs in a variety of styles and colors.

Norman remarked, “we want happy employees.”

When the announcement was made last summer, it was stated that employees would earn $16-$25 an hour, with salaries averaging between $42,000-$45,000.

Vanguard Chief Executive Officer John Bray said last summer, “we have a range, starting with training to the highest skill level.”

Norman said the company is continuing to hire.

“We’re looking for people with furniture experience, but if they don’t have experience, we have a great training program,” Norman said.

Anyone interested in a job can contact the Virginia Employment Commission for more information.