New manufacturer in Suffolk expected to hire 166

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A West Coast office-furniture maker is establishing its first Virginia manufacturing operation in Suffolk and expects to create 166 jobs.

Oakland, Calif.-based Friant and Associates will invest $17.4 million in the 357,000-square-foot facility at CenterPoint Intermodal Center. “We do quite a bit of business on the East Coast today, but we want to grow that, and we believe that being there creates a presence to our dealerships and our partnerships, and we’ll be able to expand those relationships and grow,” says Paul Friant, the company’s founder and CEO.

The Suffolk facility will be able to accommodate up to 250 workers in a single shift and will be able to run without personnel at night, Friant says. He estimates wages will run from $12 to $25 per hour. The annual pay for salaried positions will range from $40,000 to $150,000.

The company is hiring for positions in warehousing, manufacturing, building and transportation. Friant anticipates that the new plant will open in the first quarter next year. “We have poured the platform, and walls are getting ready to get tilted up so we’re moving quickly,” Friant says.

The facility will allow Friant and Associates to introduce new products, including two that are set to make their debut next year, he says.

Friant and Associates received a $200,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund for the project. The company also will receive benefits from the Port of Virginia Economic and Infrastructure Development Zone Grant Program. The Virginia Jobs Investment Program will provide funding and services for the company’s employee training activities.

Friant says the company also considered sites in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Georgia for the East Coast manufacturing facility. It chose Virginia because of logistics such as its proximity to the port and access to personnel, he says.

Friant and Associates was founded in 1990. The company estimates it’ll employ 375 employees in the United States by the third quarter of 2015. In the U.S., Friant and Associates has a production facility in Oakland and a distribution hub in Atlanta. It also works with exclusive manufacturers in China. “I think we are going to have a lot to offer to the [office furniture] dealers and the end users on the East Coast,” Friant says.

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