Broyhill Furniture to Consolidate Upholstery in Caldwell County
September 11, 2008
MEDIA RELEASE FROM CALDWELL COUNTY EDC (www.caldwelledc.org)
Lenoir, NC—Furniture Brands International, parent company of Broyhill Furniture, has announced their intentions to consolidate Broyhill’s upholstery operations under one roof, opening a mega-upholstery plant in Broyhill’s Pacemaker facility. The consolidation will move approximately 670 jobs (300 from Taylorsville and 370 from Lenoir) into the 650,000-square-foot plant. In addition to preserving the existing jobs, company officials project the creation of over 400 new jobs within the next three years.
Broyhill officials had considered two potential locations for the consolidation, Northern Mississippi and Western North Carolina. A former Lane upholstery plant (a Furniture Brands company) was available in Mississippi, approximately 350,000 square feet and could have been in operation within thirty days. In comparison, the Pacemaker plant in Lenoir would need significant upgrades (with costs estimated to be near $5 million) and take 120 days to become operational.
Broyhill advised that it currently had 850 employees in Caldwell County and over 1,200 in North Carolina. The loss of upholstery in the area would most certainly have meant the loss of most, if not all the remaining jobs in the state.
Local officials became aware of the pending decision approximately one month ago and immediately went to work to ensure that the consolidation occurred in Caldwell County. Officials from Caldwell County and the City of Lenoir joined forces to determine the best course of action in preserving the continued presence of Broyhill in Caldwell County and North Carolina. Officials immediately contacted NC Department of Commerce officials in Raleigh and stressed the critical importance of retaining the existing jobs and the added benefit of capturing the projected new jobs.
Herb Greene, chairman of the Caldwell County commissioners, stated “We simply could not afford to let Broyhill leave Caldwell County without a fight. The impact of such a move would be devastating to the citizens of Caldwell County. It would undo much of the positive work we have accomplished recently and it could take us years to recover. We also had to ask the question: What would it cost to replace 850 jobs in today’s economy?”
To emphasize this feeling, Caldwell County and the City of Lenoir put together an incentive package totaling $2 million to assist with the up-fit of the Pacemaker facility in Lenoir. These funds, coming from the Sales Tax Reinvestment fund and the general funds of the county and the city, will be paid to the company within the first two years of the project (pending approval via the public hearing process). The funds, as required by the State of North Carolina, will match a $2 million One North Carolina Grant, which was approved by Governor Easley’s office with the understanding that Broyhill will create 432 new jobs within the next three years. Exact terms of the local agreement need to be finalized and will include requirements that Broyhill maintain a specific number of jobs in the county for a set period, as a condition of receiving the local funds.
In supporting these efforts, David Barlow, mayor of Lenoir was quoted as saying “Company officials made it clear that they wanted to stay here if possible. What we had to do, along with our partners in Caldwell County and Raleigh was to find a way to help Broyhill level the playing field and cover some of the renovation costs. This was not about just job creation but maintaining the jobs already in Lenoir and Caldwell County. This was a must win for us.”
Caldwell County Commissioners Don Barrier and Ron Beane were also active in the negotiations as were several Lenoir city council members and the managers of both Lenoir and Caldwell County. Commissioner Barrier summed up the feelings of the local officials saying “Everyone that had a part in this understands how important it is to keep Broyhill here. It goes deeper than the 400 jobs that will be created and the jobs in Caldwell County that will be preserved. Broyhill has been a fixture in the county for many years, and it was incumbent upon us to do whatever we could to preserve this icon. We understand that the taxpayers of Caldwell County are the ones that are ultimately paying for this, and I believe it is a wise use of their funds.”
Operations at the updated Pacemaker plant should start in early 2009. The company has announced that all manufacturing workers at the Taylorsville and Lenoir plants will be offered employment at the renovated facility.