Thomasville Furniture Closing North Carolina Plant

Thomasville, NC, May 3, 2006--Thomasville Furniture Industries Inc., said yesterday that it is shutting down its last manufacturing plant in the company’s hometown, cutting 278 jobs by the end of July, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. The company said that closing the 309,000-square-foot factory, Plant D, is part of an on-going transition from domestic manufacturing to overseas production, particularly in China. The layoff is Thomasville’s ninth since March 2001 and first since June 2005, when it announced the largest elimination of jobs (620) in its history. The company has eliminated at least 3,137 jobs since March 2001. "The continued advancement in the capabilities of our offshore resources has made it very difficult for us to compete with domestically produced product," Nancy Webster, the president and chief executive of Thomasville, said in a statement. "We must be cognizant of the need to provide the consumer with not only the designs they desire for their homes, but also at a price they can afford and which is competitive in the marketplace. We regret the hardship this change will cause for the affected employees, their families and the community." Thomasville is committed to keeping its headquarters in the city, along with warehouse, maintenance and importing operations, said Rick Millen, the company’s vice president of human resources. Millen said that Thomasville will have about 600 jobs in Thomasville and 2,450 overall, which includes upholstery and wooden-manufacturing operations in Conover, Hickory, Lenoir, Statesville and Troutman. Thomasville joins Lexington Home Brands in ceasing production of wooden furniture in their hometowns. Lexington closed Plant 2 last year, eliminating 360 jobs. Lexington still operates an occasional-furniture plant and distribution operation in the city, but has just 580 employees overall compared with about 4,000 five years ago. Thomasville’s decision did not surprise community leaders and industry officials. "City leaders have heard the same information that another manufacturing domino in the county was going to fall in the short term," said Kelly Craver, the city manager of Thomasville. "Thomasville has been a cornerstone of the community for decades, giving the community an international reputation for fine furniture. It’s certainly sad that these jobs are going away and the community is being asked to once again help furniture families through tough times. "The main hope is that these changes will help stabilize Thomasville as a sizable employer in the city," Craver said. Steve Googe, the executive director of the Davidson County Economic Development Commission, said he "hated to see another part of our manufacturing heritage going away. But the decision reinforces our need to re-engineer our economy toward high-tech manufacturing." Before yesterday’s announcement, Davidson had had a net gain of a 1,863 jobs from January 2000 through March 2006, despite losing more than 4,100 furniture jobs in that period. Manufacturers of motorsports components, laminate floors, windows and doors and plastics created most of the new jobs. "There remains a lot of interest from Asian and European furniture companies in our manufacturing work force, and some domestic companies," Googe said. "But nobody is interested in taking over an old furniture plant and upfitting it." Thomasville said in October that 25 percent of the wooden furniture it sells is made domestically, compared with 85 percent of its fabric upholstery. Wooden furniture is considered more labor intensive. "We are sitting at the pivotal stage where the domestic manufacturing base is departing and we are becoming a global sourcing company," Webster said in an October interview with the Winston-Salem Journal. "As you do that, your focus becomes completely different than it is when you are concerned about operating your facilities."