Commissioners approve incentives

Catawba County Commissioners approved an economic incentives package for a Hickory company in the hope that the business will bring much-needed jobs to Catawba County.

Furniture manufacturer Fairmont Designs will receive a $25,000 grant to help the company increase productivity and efficiency or relocate equipment. In exchange, the company agreed to create 200 jobs and invest $1.5 million.

The incentives package requires Fairmont designs to invest $1.5 million in machinery by 2012 and create 200 jobs by 2014, according to Dave Hardin, Catawba County public information officer. The jobs must be created and retained for at least 36 months after receipt of the $25,000, or it must be repaid, according to data from the Catawba County website.

Fairmont Designs announced in February that it selected Hickory as the location for its $1.5-million project. The schedule for job creation is 60 jobs each year during 2011 and 2012; 45 jobs in 2013; and 35 in 2014.

"It's another show of investment for Fairmont Designs," said company president Brian Edwards when the announcement was made in February.

"Where other companies are shedding workers and looking for ways to divest, we are taking steps that will make us a stronger company and have stronger offerings in the industry."

Fairmont Designs is based in Rancho Dominguez, Calif., where it has a 200,000-square-foot upholstery plant.

The company expanded its operations in Hickory in February by acquiring a 215,000-square-foot facility to manufacture upholstered furniture.

The facility was previously used by Thomasville Furniture.

Fairmont Designs said it will invest $1.5 million in machinery and equipment. The company purchased the Thomasville facility property for $1.3 million.

"We've been working with Fairmont Designs since October 2010 as they considered different areas to locate their new manufacturing operation," said Julie Pruett, business recruitment director for the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation, about Fairmont's move to Catawba County. "Our skilled furniture workforce and furniture manufacturing heritage made Hickory and Catawba County an obvious choice."

Fairmont Designs owns and operates four facilities, employing 4,500 people worldwide.

According to information from Catawba County, Fairmont Designs plans to implement "lean manufacturing" at the Hickory facility. The way of manufacturing is designed to improve work flow and reduce waste.