published Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Jackson Furniture expands in Tennessee, Mississippi

A furniture manufacturer headquartered in Cleveland, Tenn., has added 50 new jobs in Cleveland and is opening two new plants in Mississippi to meet growing demand.

Jackson Furniture, an 80-year-old, family-owned company, expects production at the first plant in Mantachie, Miss., to start next week. Company officials also expect to close on a second manufacturing site in Mississippi during the next 45 days.

"Mississippi is the number one sofa-recliner, what-we-do market in the country," said Keith Jackson, senior vice president of sales. "So we're able to walk right in and go. Our vendors are there, the experienced labor pool is there."

The new plants will extend the company's geographic reach into the west, Jackson said. Jackson Furniture already operates three plants in Cleveland -- those serve the Southeast and Middle America -- and a plant in Virginia that serves the Northeast. The Mississippi plants will serve the Western United States.

It's all about demand, Jackson said. Sales are up by more than 20 percent compared to last year, he said.

"We focus on comfort," he said. "When we've got the most comfortable furniture on the market, that

leads to better sales."

The company employs close to 1,100 people now before the new hires at the Mississippi plants, said Todd DeLuca, director of human resource. He declined to say how many new jobs are being created, but said the plants will be about the same size as the three plants in Cleveland, which collectively employ several hundred people.

The company was heavily recruited by Mississippi state and received incentives to open up the plants in an area that was hard hit by the recession.

The Mississippi furniture industry lost 13,500 jobs between 2000 and 2012, and one major employer, Furniture Brands International, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early September.

One of Furniture Brands' lines, Lane Furniture Industries, has a plant in Saltillo, Miss., just 15 miles from Jackson Furnitures' new 33-acre site. Lane disclosed during bankruptcy proceedings that it could lay off as many as 1,451 people from its Mississippi operations.

"We've been taking market share from them and everybody else for years," Jackson said. "They've been struggling for a while."

Jackson has been helped by the turnaround in the housing market, DeLuca said. Also, the company is debt-free and well-managed, he added.

"It's family-owned, it's privately held, it's debt-free," he said. "That makes you stronger in bad times. The Jackson family puts their heart and soul into this business."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or at sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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