Ashley Breaks Ground On New Furniture Plant
Published 12:00 am Monday, May 20, 2013
By Mike Barnhardt
ADVANCE – Pat McCrory had only been in the governor’s office for a couple of weeks when he got the phone call.
A member of his staff said that a customer was flying in from Wisconsin for a meeting.
It was Ron Wanek, the founder and chair of Ashley Furniture. He brought his attorney, Bill Koslo. There was a problem with permits.
Things worked out, and last week, Ashley Furniture broke ground on an $80 million manufacturing facility that should employee 550 folks within five years. The company is already basing its East Coast distributing and manufacturing on the old RJR site on Baltimore Road.
“Everyone did a good job of recruiting Ashley Furniture, but you’ve got a problem waiting for permits,” the governor said he was told before a crowd of Ashley employees, local, state and furniture industry officials Wednesday evening, April 17.
McCrory had a simple question.
“Can you fix it?”
His staff did just that, doing two things that were his goal when he took office: increase jobs, and to improve customer service by the state government.
When completed, the Ashley expansion will make it the largest furniture manufacturing plant in the United States.
“We’re here because of a team effort,” the governor said. “We love having this new Wisconsin blood in North Carolina. What’s so great about this is … it’s a high quality company. We want you to continue to grow, prosper and make money and hire skilled workers from this county.”
Reinvesting is what the company has always done, going from a small business that now has more than 22,000 employees worldwide and does business in every state and 134 countries.
“We’re excited to be re-investing in the United States,” said Todd Wanek, chief executive officer and Ron Wanek’s son. The Advance facility will serve customers throughout the Southeast as well as export markets, he said.
“We’re here to work with you,” McCrory said. “Thanks to all the leaders who made this happen. It was a team effort.”
Terry Bralley, president of the Davie Economic Development Commission, said it is refreshing to have state government treating a business like a customer. He spent the best of two years leading the recruitment of Ashley.
“I’ve learned from Ashley what it takes to compete in the world today,” Bralley said. North Carolina is more expensive than some surrounding states to operate a business, and he welcomes changes to that statistic.
“The long history of furniture manufacturing in this region … who would have thought we …