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Bruce Cochrane to launch case goods producer Lincolnton Furniture

Will offer U.S.-made solid wood bedroom, dining room

LINCOLNTON, N.C. — Former Cochrane Furniture president Bruce Cochrane is starting a new furniture manufacturing company based here and plans to begin production in December and shipping in January.

 Lincolnton FurnitureBruce Cochrane

Lincolnton Furniture will make solid wood bedroom and dining room furniture in a former 310,000-square-foot Cochrane plant in Lincolnton, which also is Cochrane's hometown.

He left Cochrane Furniture shortly after the company was sold to Chromcraft-Revington in 1996 and since then has been an industry consultant. Today, Chromcraft-Revington continues to sell Cochrane as an imported bedroom line.

Chromcraft-Revington closed the Lincolnton plant in November 2008 and sold it. It also later ceased its Lincolnton warehousing and distribution operations. Bruce Cochrane said the new company will lease the plant from its current owner, a commercial real estate developer, but plans to purchase it later on.

He said the company initially will need about 200,000 square feet of production space for the line, which will include upper-middle priced bedroom and dining room in solid oak, cherry and maple.

"We will keep our overhead as low as we can so we can sell our product at a good competitive price," Cochrane said.

While the plant still has some equipment in place such as conveyor motors and belts, carts and stainless steel finishing lines, the company plans to invest about $2.8 million in equipment necessary to run a full production line, he added.

"There is finishing equipment - spray guns and spray booths - you can pick up at a really good price now," he said. "The bulk of the money will be spent on state of the art machinery."

Cochrane said the plant will employ about 75 workers by the first of the year. It could employ as many as 130 by the end of 2012.

He will be president and CEO, while former Capel Rugs CEO Bruce Hric will serve as chief financial officer. Mark Gosnell, former president of La-Z-Boy's HickoryMark upholstery division, will be vice president of sales. Phillip Null, a former executive with manufacturer Null Furniture, will be vice president of manufacturing.

While the domestic wood industry still faces competition from lower-cost competitors in China - a furniture worker in southern China earns about $200 per month - Cochrane said he believes the timing is right for an upstart domestic manufacturer. He said importers face challenges with rising transportation and labor costs in China, along with labor shortages.

Where China manufacturers tend to throw labor at a problem, he said, U.S. manufacturers such as Lincolnton Furniture can be more innovative with equipment and automation.

"We have the opportunity to set up a furniture manufacturing facility that will be as good as any in the world from a technological standpoint," he added. "It may not be the biggest, but it will be one of the best."

The company plans to introduce its line at the Sept. 12-13 premarket in High Point. The initial offering will include five bedroom collections and some casual dining. Cochrane said customers will be able to choose from multiple environmentally friendly, water-based wood finish and colors.

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