MYRTLE, Miss. (AP) — When Cleveland, Tenn.-based Jackson Furniture announced last fall it was expanding its operations into Northeast Mississippi, it promised to add 250 jobs within three years.
The company has reached that figure in four months.
"We've gone from zero to 250 really fast," said Keith Jackson, the company's executive vice president. "It's been really easy."
Jackson has two facilities in the northeast Mississippi region — in Mantachie and in Myrtle — and on Tuesday, company leaders joined economic development and city officials from both cities for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting at the Myrtle plant.
And the plants are humming this week, as the company's showroom at this week's Spring Tupelo Furniture Market is ready to do business.
"We've been at the market for about 20 years," Jackson said.
With workers busy framing, filling and assembling furniture, Jackson and plant manager Lynn Montgomery took visitors on a quick tour of the Myrtle plant.
"This building sat empty for too many years, and when we heard Jackson Furniture was looking, we knew this would be the right place," said Union County Development Association Executive Director Phil Nanney.
Jackson opened its Mantachie plant first in September, taking over the 183,000-square-foot facility that had most recently been TownHouse Furniture. In December, operations began in the 160,000-square-foot building in Myrtle that had been Barclay Furniture.
"There hadn't been any manufacturing in here in five years, and there hadn't been anybody at all in here for three years," Nanney said.
Jackson Furniture, founded in 1933, has manufacturing facilities in Tennessee and northern Virginia. Opening in Northeast Mississippi, in the heart of upholstered furniture manufacturing in the country, made sense, Keith Jackson said.
"This is perfect for us, for our suppliers we have here," he said. "You go where your customers are."
Jackson/Catnapper employs about 1,300 people among its four plants.
Stationary furniture under the Jackson brand name is made at the Myrtle plant, while motion furniture under the Catnapper name is made in Mantachie.
Jackson Furniture is investing more than $2 million in its Mississippi plants.
Each Mississippi plant can employ 200-225 workers, so there's room to grow, and Jackson said the facilities in the Magnolia State "are our runways to growth."
Financial incentives from the state include $750,000 from the Mississippi Development Authority for renovation and relocation costs, plus worker training assistance valued at more than $1 million. The Appalachian Regional Commission is providing $300,000 for infrastructure improvements.
The company makes sofas, recliners, chairs, tables and rugs under the Catnapper and Jackson brands. It's also rolling out a line of Duck Dynasty-branded furniture in camouflage patterns and outdoor prints.
The region around Tupelo is the center of a large upholstered furniture industry. Mississippi State University estimated in 2011 that 31 percent of all upholstered furniture sold in the United States was made in northeast Mississippi.
Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com