- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

NEW ALBANY, Miss. (AP) - Emerald Home Furnishings announced Wednesday that it will open an upholstered furniture factory in New Albany, investing more than $2 million and hiring 150 workers.

The company, based in Seattle, Washington, will move into a building formerly occupied by furniture component manufacturer Hickory Springs, which closed its New Albany plant in June 2012.

Federal, state and local governments will give more than $2.1 million to aid the deal. Union County will use a $1.1 million loan from the state to buy the building, and the state will chip in a $1 million grant to the county for improvements. The Appalachian Regional Commission and the Tennessee Valley Authority are giving undisclosed amounts.

Mississippi Development Authority spokeswoman Marlo Dorsey couldn’t say how much workers will make or how quickly Emerald will ramp up operations.

“We are a Seattle-based company and have been importing for decades, but this is our first effort in manufacturing upholstery in the U.S.,” Emerald CEO David Beckmann said in a statement. The commitment to business in north Mississippi and the outstanding quality of the workforce here made our decision very easy.”

The company was formed more than 50 years ago as an importer. It sells upholstered furniture, bedroom suites, dining room furniture, tables and chairs. Emerald says on its website that it runs a warehouse in Tacoma, Washington, where it makes mattresses, as well as five factories in Shanghai, China.

Emerald’s choice to open an American factory is part of a small trend of “reshoring,” moving manufacturing work from overseas back to the United States. After peaking in 2000 at more than 31,000 workers in Mississippi, the number of furniture workers fell more than 40 percent through 2011, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures. Since then, employment has been stable between 18,000 and 19,000 workers, with some furniture makers hiring new workers even as others continue to shrink. Some have argued that upholstered furniture manufacturing, because of the bulky product and the need for customization, has a viable future in the United States.

“The decision by the Emerald Home Furnishings team to locate these operations in New Albany is great news for north Mississippi, and it will further bolster the region’s growing presence in the furniture industry,” said Gov. Phil Bryant, who attended the announcement.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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