Bob Shaw had been in the carpet business for more than five decades when, at nearly 80 years old, he decided to start a new company from scratch in Dalton, Georgia, known as Engineered Floors.
Over the past six years, the privately held company has grown to four plants and 3,000 employees with 2016 estimated revenues reportedly in the $800 million range.
"They thought the best years of the carpet industry were over with, but I see opportunity here," Shaw said in an earlier interview.
The 85-year-old Shaw's newest venture now is the third largest carpet company in North America. Engineered Floors is building a plant in Whitfield County, Georgia, that will be the largest carpet factory in the world when fully built out, according to the company.
"He knows what he's doing," says James Lesslie, Engineered Floors' executive vice president of sales and marketing.
Shaw founded floorcovering giant Shaw Industries and ran it for many years before selling it in 2000 to billionaire investor Warren Buffet. Shaw stepped down from that company in 2005 and later started Engineered Floors.
"He has this spirit of that can-do attitude," Lesslie says. "We launched in the middle of a housing crisis. He gives us this can-do, we're-going-to-make-it-happen kind of attitude."
Earlier this year, Engineered Floors finalized the acquisition of J&J Industries, a 60-year-old company that specialized in commercial carpet to complement the residential side of Shaw's business.
"There's nothing brand new about what we're doing," Shaw said earlier about Engineered Floors. "The difference is we color the polymer before the carpet is made versus some of the other processes. In the polyester business, they have certain amounts of pre-dying, but we have the bulk."
While sales in the carpet industry overall were flat to down slightly in 2016 over the prior year, Engineered Floors reported higher revenue, though the company would say how much.
What business leaders were the most influential in shaping the local economy in 2016?
In the Chattanooga region, 2016 was a year of building for the future. The first new nuclear reactor of the 21st century and the biggest plant construction project ever in the region was completed, while a record amount of new housing, hotel and retail development was launched in downtown Chattanooga to soon double the number of residents in the central city. One of the biggest floorcovering plants took shape in North Georgia as two carpet companies combined and Chattanooga's airport added another airline and parking facility. Tennessee's biggest heath insurer prepared to implement its biggest rate hike under the so-called Obamacare program, while the business trio that built one of Chattanooga's most successful startups in the past decade began a fund and program to bring more logistics companies to Chattanooga.
The individuals who led such efforts and did the most to reshape the regional economy are our Most valuable Players in business in 2016. Our top list of MVPs includes both seasoned veterans and newly named heads of local businesses and reflects the diversity of Chattanooga's changing economy.