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Thomas Russell

Getting out of office yields better reporting

Thomas Russell Associate editorThomas Russell Associate editor
In a 2011 planning meeting, we were asked what we as reporters would most like to accomplish this year. The consensus: Get out of the office more. Reporting from our desks is fine, but it's no substitute for being in the field, and I'm not just talking about attending furniture shows. While they're important, there is much more to see, whether it's an expanding Virginia furniture plant or a growing retailer on the West Coast.
     This was definitely one of my more productive years in terms of travel. Along with further opening my eyes to manufacturing processes, it reminded me we are in a truly global industry that offers retailers and consumers choices thanks to our diverse manufacturing capabilities.
     Things got off to a busy start before the January Las Vegas Market when Ray Allegrezza and I visited Galax, Va.-based manufacturer Vaughan-Bassett, which was acquiring an idled Webb Furniture plant next door. The $8 million expansion was expected to boost capacity by 50% and add more than 100 jobs, further showing its commitment to domestic manufacturing.
     After market, I drove from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to visit Wesley Allen and Sandberg Furniture. While totally different - Wesley Allen makes high-end metal beds and Sandberg makes promotional to lower-middle-priced laminate bedrooms - each showed how it is competitive in a global marketplace.
     This was followed by a visit to Bassett Furniture's case goods plant in Martinsville, Va., which makes custom dining. Heath Combs helped report on the production process and also brought back some compelling video.
     Then came visits to Tijuana, Mexico, to see Martin Furniture's case goods plant and also Nick Oak's plant, which produces a line of consoles and bookcases for Kurio King. This trip illustrated the advantages and capabilities of Mexico, a potentially less expensive alternative to China.
     In July, I visited Standard in Bay Minette, Ala., where officials talked about plans to upfit and better utilize a plant that has seen its share of slow times. The visit also took us to the company's extensive distribution facilities nearby.
     In August I went to Indonesia, where I spent a week touring more furniture plants. This trip gave the paper access to companies that make some of the world's most beautiful bedroom and dining room furniture.
     Two weeks ago, I visited Young America in Robbinsville, N.C. The company is making big investments in new equipment that will make it more efficient and able to produce quality, custom-made youth furniture for many years.
     Hopefully our reports help readers understand how furniture is made. It's our goal in 2013 and beyond to continue getting out in the field and reporting back on the competitive aspects of our manufacturing sector.

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