Area’s furniture factories suffer blows

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A final one-two punch has knocked out major, name-brand furniture manufacturing in Martinsville and Henry County, a legacy in the region’s economy.

First, American of Martinsville and its sister company, Barcalounger, closed its local furniture factory, resulting in the loss of more than 225 factory jobs. Then, Stanley Furniture announced that it would send its manufacturing operations overseas, which means that 530 workers will be laid off by year’s end.

“We’ve been losing furniture jobs for 10 years, so though we weren’t exactly expecting this, it wasn’t a total shock either,” says Leigh Cockram, vice president of Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. “But it’s still a blow. The last thing anyone wants to see are loyal, hardworking individuals lose their jobs.”

Stanley Furniture’s headquarters will continue to be in Stanley and it will maintain distribution and some assembly operations in the area. Other well-known furniture companies, including Hooker Furniture and Bassett Furniture, also are based in the Martinsville area. “The furniture industry continues to be a big part of our local economy,” Cockram adds. “It’s just that it’s in headquarters and other operations, rather than manufacturing.”

In April, Martinsville had the state’s highest unemployment rate, 21.7 percent, while Henry County’s jobless rate was 14.3 percent.

For most of the past decade, local officials have worked to diversify the area’s economic base, and there have been some successes this year. In late April, Faneuil Inc., announced that it will establish a call center in Martinsville, creating 250 jobs during the next two to three years. The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. also worked with Monogram Meat Snacks to acquire a local food production facility and invest $3 million to expand it. That deal will result in 120 new jobs.

The region’s target industries for recruitment include plastics and metal working companies, component manufacturing, and back-office and data center projects.
“Our community is extremely resilient,” says Cockram. “We’ve been through this before, but we’ll continue to diversify. We’re optimistic that eventually we’ll come out on top.”

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