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N.C. furniture project gets $2.5 million Golden Leaf grant

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — Officials with the Golden Leaf Foundation confirmed that the organization last week approved a $2.5 million grant for the "Project Top Drawer" manufacturing plant and distribution center in Davie County.

The project has not been identified by economic officials. The foundation administers some state funds from the Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers.

To qualify for the grant's funds, the Davie County project had to have competition for its bid, said Dan Gerlach, president of the foundation. Gerlach said the funds would be used to buy equipment and machinery that the unnamed company would lease from Davie County.

Some officials have speculated that Ashley Furniture Inds. is behind the project, according to a report in the Winston-Salem Journal.

Earlier this year, Gov. Bev Perdue signed a bill approving an estimated $168,013 tax credit over three years, the story said, for an $80 million "manufacturing and distribution facility" that would employ at least 550 workers.

Ashley officials said last year that the company planned to open another manufacturing and distribution center to serve the East Coast, and added that the company was looking in Virginia and the Carolinas for a location that could handle the production of upholstery and some case goods.

They said the ideal footprint for the facility would be 150 acres and a manufacturing and distribution plant of 1.2 million square feet close to major highways, rail and ports.

The project would represent about a $200 million investment and would employ about 1,000 people. Plans for the facility were put on hold in recent years as the economy struggled. The company said it would consider a location and build its own facility or use an idled manufacturing facility that could offer the efficiencies Ashley wants.

Ashley has U.S. manufacturing and warehousing operations at its headquarters in Arcadia, Wis., and in Ecru and Ripley, Miss.; Brandon, Fla.; Colton, Calif., and Leesport, Pa.

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