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Larry Thomas

Ashley plans N.C. plant

An aerial photoAn aerial photo shows an existing building on the 640-acre site where Ashley Furniture plans to locate a manufacturing and distribution hub.
ADVANCE, N.C. - The first phase of Ashley Furniture's $80 million manufacturing and distribution hub - a site that will have both upholstery and case goods manufacturing in four to five years - should be in operation here by October or November, company officials said.
     Initially, an existing 418,000-square-foot building on the 640-acre site will be converted into a distribution center that will begin shipping furniture before the end of the year. Eventually, the hub will encompass more than 3 million square feet and employ about 550 people, said Ashley Chairman Ron Wanek.
     Wanek disclosed plans for the new facilities on the eve of the High Point Market before a cheering crowd of more than 300 that included industry leaders, state and local government officials, and Ashley employees.
     "This is a huge investment, a huge undertaking for us, but we are very optimistic about making this work," Wanek said. "We are very excited to be here."
     The company said work at the site - a former R.J. Reynolds tobacco plant - would begin almost immediately.
     The second phase of the project will include a 400,000-square-foot upholstery manufacturing plant, followed by a 507,000-square-foot addition to the distribution center.
     The final phase will be a 350,000-square-foot factory for case goods manufacturing.
     Once lumber drying, trucking and other support facilities are built, the entire facility will occupy more than 3 million square feet.
Sen. RichardSen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., center, was among the official guests as Ashley’s Ron Wanek, left, and Todd Wanek announced the new plant during the High Point Market.

     Wanek estimated it would take four years for all phases of the facility to be completed.
     His son Todd, who is Ashley's CEO, said the Advance facilities will not replace any of Ashley's existing U.S. plants.
     "As we see Ashley's global demand for its products increase, Ashley continues to make long term investments in all of its facilities as well as the continued education of all employees to meet consumer demand," Todd Wanek said.
     Ron Wanek said the company had been searching for a new manufacturing and distribution site in the eastern U.S. for more than a year, but settled on the North Carolina site because of the available workforce, the area's rich furniture industry heritage, and condition of the property, among other things.
     "The facility we are purchasing is in great shape," he said. "And we've always liked coming here to North Carolina (for furniture markets)."
     The site is about 35 miles west of High Point in Advance, which is pronounced ADD-vance.
     North Carolina officials said Ashley will get a grant of up to $825,000 from the state's economic development fund. In addition, the company has been awarded a Job Development Incentive Grant, which could yield as much as $3.19 million.
     Under terms of the JDIG grant, the state will give Ashley 60% of the state personal income withholding taxes derived from the creation of new jobs for 10 years, so long as the company meets annual performance targets.

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