By JACK WEATHERLY
Ashley Furniture is expanding operations at its stationary upholstery manufacturing and regional distribution center in Ecru. The project is a $25 million corporate investment and will create 100 jobs.
“Northeast Mississippi’s furniture industry is a strong economic driver throughout the region, employing thousands of Mississippians – many of whom are employed at Ashley Furniture,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a release issued Friday. “Ashley has had tremendous success at its Ecru facility, and the addition of 100 more jobs for the area’s skilled workforce will help ensure the company enjoys many more years of growth and success in Pontotoc County.”
Ashley Furniture employs 3,290 workers in Mississippi, with approximately 2,260 employees at the Ecru location.
Furniture manufacturing added $4.29 billion to the Mississippi economy in 2014. In that year, employment stood at 26,193, according to Dr. Rubin Shumulsky, head of the sustainable bioproducts department at Mississippi State University.
Peak employment in the industry reached 31,600 in 2000, before falling to 17,600 by 2009, largely due to a drop in demand from China because of that country’s production of furniture cheaper than could be bought in the United States.
Shumulsky describes the industry as stable and moderately diversified. Upholstered furniture remains the strength, with some case goods. “We’ve got a trained work force, we’ve got raw materials,” he said. “If we wanted to open a plant in Tulsa, Oklahoma, it would be much harder because they don’t have the allied support network.”
Ashley Furniture’s expansion, the company’s 14th at its Ecru location, will involve constructing an additional 403,000 square feet onto its existing facility, which is nearly 2 million square feet, to truck shop will be re-established in a new location, which will be comprised of a 35,000-square-foot truck maintenance facility.
The Mississippi Development Authority is providing $3 million for site preparation and construction. The company also qualifies for the Advantage Jobs Rebate program, which provides a cash rebate to eligible businesses that create new jobs that meet or exceed the average annual wage of the state or the county in which the company locates.
MDA Executive Director Glenn McCullough Jr. said, “We salute our partners at Three Rivers Planning and Development District, the Pontotoc County Board of Supervisors and the town of Ecru for their teamwork with MDA to bring this exciting economic development win to our state.”
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