- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The country’s largest furniture maker and retailer plans to expand in North Carolina with about 450 jobs after the state on Tuesday promised tax breaks of more than $5 million.

Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. planned to add the jobs to its current 1,100 employees after a North Carolina panel overseeing the state’s largest business incentive program approved the tax break. Privately-held Ashley, based in Arcadia, Wisconsin, must meet hiring and investment targets to receive the full $5.4 million in state tax breaks.

Gov. Pat McCrory announced the jobs in High Point, where the twice-a-year international furniture market opens this weekend.

Ashley last year opened its new production and distribution site near the Davie County town of Advance, built after state officials promised special tax breaks of up to $4 million. State legislators approved a further tax break in 2011 aimed at attracting the Ashley operation.

Ashley also is planning expansions of manufacturing and distribution sites over the next 18 months in California, Mississippi and Wisconsin and a distribution center in Texas, the company said.

The Davie County site was affected by a lengthy environmental delay, but Ashley CEO Todd Wanek praised the state’s “pro-business attitude.”

“It has been a challenging and fulfilling journey, and we look forward to a very bright future in North Carolina,” he said in a statement.

Ashley had nearly $4 billion in sales in 2014. Nearly two-thirds of its products are produced in the U.S, the company said.

The company has been under pressure this year after the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Ashley for dozens of workplace safety violations at its Wisconsin plant. OSHA labeled the company a severe violator that displayed willful and repeated failures, including some that resulted in amputations. The company is contesting penalties of $1.8 million.

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Emery Dalesio can be reached at https://twitter.com/emerydalesio


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