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Bassett investing in area
Factory to expand, add jobs locally
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Jim Cheng (right), Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade, gives a state flag to Rob Spilman, president and CEO of Bassett Furniture Industries, Wednesday in Henry County. Bassett announced that it will invest $1.5 million to expand its casual custom dining operations and create 25 jobs. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

In what was hailed as a homegrown success story, Bassett Furniture Industries on Wednesday announced it will invest $1.5 million to expand its casual custom dining operations and create 25 jobs in Henry County.

“Bassett Furniture Industries is an important employer and a great ambassador of Henry County and the surrounding region,” said Jim Cheng, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade, who spoke at Wednesday’s announcement. “We welcome the addition of 25 new jobs paying above the prevailing average wage, and celebrate a homegrown company that continues to thrive in Virginia.”

About half of the jobs already have been filled throughout Bassett’s operations in Henry County, according to Robert H. “Rob” Spilman Jr., president and chief executive officer of Bassett Furniture. He said they range from $13-$14 an hour upholstery workers to $30,000-$50,000 salaried personnel.

The expansion will add 5,000 square feet in the upholstered chair work area of Bassett’s 90,000-square-foot Factory 11 in the Patriot Centre at Beaver Creek industrial park, according to Jeb Bassett, senior vice president-wood.

The company’s business has grown $50 million in 2013 and $300 million since 2006, Spilman said.

With a $50 million boost in the company’s coffers, “it can do multiple things,” including paying a special dividend, investing in 10 new stores in 2014, expanding its payroll by 20 percent in Virginia and expanding its facilities, he said.

“This investment will expand our production capacities, provide improved service for our customers, and position the facility for future growth,” Spilman stated in a news release. “This expansion underscores the importance of our local workforce and its ability to meet our customers’ needs, and build upon our founders’ legacy that began in 1902.”

Cheng called Bassett a “true Virginia success story. ... With a successful history in Henry County dating back more than 100 years, it is fitting for Bassett to expand here, and demonstrates utmost confidence in the local community and workforce. This expansion will continue to allow Bassett to leverage its customization capabilities and innovation, and continue to lead in the furniture industry.”

According to company spokesman Jay Moore, Bassett employs 100 people now at Factory 11; a total of 260 in Henry County, including at its headquarters in Bassett; 300 in Virginia; and 1,500 worldwide.

Cheng also said it was appropriate that Bassett’s “great announcement” would be the last — as far as he knows — for Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration. He called it “bittersweet, more sweet than bitter.”

He complimented Mark Heath, president/CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC), and others. “You guys are out there, working with local companies” to help them grow here, he said.

In an interview later, Cheng said the area has done a lot to foster economic growth, citing Heath’s work and planned industrial megasites. But, he added, “There’s always more that can be done. You have to be vigilant.”

He said emphasis needs to remain on workforce development, including showing young people that while many go to college, there also are blue collar jobs that will be needed in the 21st century.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the EDC to secure the project for Virginia, according to a news release. The Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp. also offered vital assistance, it stated.

McDonnell approved a $50,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to assist Henry County with the project. Henry County will contribute $25,000 for site development.

Through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program, the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company’s recruitment and training activities.

“Bassett Furniture is committed to this community and greatly values our partnership with local and state officials, who were instrumental in helping get the project underway,” Spilman said in the release. “Bassett Furniture is Henry County born and bred and we owe a large part of our success to the superior workforce that you find right here in southwest Virginia.”

He said at Wednesday’s announcement that Bassett also has changes in mind for some of its other buildings in the area, including creating a wood design center.

That caused Heath to speculate that Wednesday’s announcement might not be Bassett’s last.


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