AXTON — Gov. Ralph Northam Monday announced that Ison Furniture Manufacturing, Inc., a North Carolina-based furniture manufacturer, will invest $3.5 million to acquire and renovate the recently closed A.C. Furniture Company, Inc. facility in Pittsylvania County, creating 150 new jobs.
The company is also purchasing new equipment for the assembly and full production of its upholstered furniture products.
Virginia successfully won the project after a competition with North Carolina.
The company’s supplier, Dogwood Global, LLC, will locate to a vacant 30,000-square-foot building onsite, investing $500,000 in new equipment and adding 45 new jobs to manufacture high-end wood tables and custom furniture frames that will be upholstered by Ison Furniture, according to a press statement.
Pittsylvania County Director of Economic Development Matthew Rowe said Monday evening that it is "always a great sign, a strong gesture when a company goes in and purchases a facility upfront," which Ison has done, recently closing on the 30,000-square-foot building.
"This facility is no more than 2 miles form the Pittsylvania County/Henry County line," Rowe continued. "Historically, A.C. furniture, which was there previously, employed numerous residents from Marttinsville all the way to Danville and Chatham. The same base of employment will still be in play."
The availability of the work force is the biggest driving factor for this industry to enter Pittsylvania County, Rowe said.
"That facility has not been vacant very long, so that work force is still existing, those skill sets are still there," Rowe said. "It takes a very unique skillset to make this type of precision and high-value upholstered furniture."
The company previously tried to collaborate with A.C. furniture as a segue into the commercial side of furniture manufacturing, president Akira Ison said, but such a cooperative operation never came to fruition.
It takes a significant economic development project to gain support and traction in Richmond, but this project has done just that.
“We are pleased to welcome Ison Furniture Manufacturing and Dogwood Global to Southern Virginia,” Northam said. “Manufacturing is an important pillar of many communities across our Commonwealth and is key to rebuilding our economy in the wake of the ongoing global pandemic. The region’s strong history with textiles and furniture combined with the caliber of the existing upholstery and furniture-building workforce makes this project a natural fit for Pittsylvania County, and we look forward to the future success of this new operation.”
Ison Furniture Manufacturing specializes in the production of contemporary furniture for consumer and hospitality markets. The company has two existing facilities in North Carolina, with one in Cleveland County outside of Charlotte and the other just outside of Greensboro.
This new operation represents the company's first in Virginia.
A.C. Furniture Company, located at the newly-acquired Ison building in Axton from 1977 to March of this year, developed a strong textiles and furniture workforce in the region. Ison aims to capitalize and cash in on that what workforce now.
As part of the project, Ison will also utilize excess upholstery and sewing capacity at the facility to manufacture personal protective equipment products to support the local COVID-19 response, officials said in a statement.
"It's so hard in today's world to find good sewers and good upholsterers," Ison said. "This is not a trade that is well-taught anymore. It's very difficult to find. So, coming into Pittsylvania County with all these employees with years and years of experience, we definitely wanted to give them back their job, basically. It's a difficult trade to get into and to retain, especially with a lot of other manufacturers...moving offshore."
“Ison Furniture’s decision to establish its newest furniture production operation in Pittsylvania County is great news for Southern Virginia, and it demonstrates the infrastructure and workforce advantages that continue to attract high-quality manufacturers,” Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball said. “We thank Ison and supplier Dogwood Global for creating valuable job opportunities, and we are confident the region will deliver a sustainable talent pipeline to facilitate the growth of both companies.”
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Pittsylvania County, the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance, and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission to secure the project for Virginia.
“Ison Furniture Manufacturing, Inc. is excited to become part of the historic Virginia furniture industry,” said Ison. “Southern Virginia is known for having some of the finest furniture craftsmen in the country, and Virginia has led the way in providing a foundation for businesses and employees to grow and prosper together. Local and state government embraced our concept of designing a COVID-conscious facility, and our family-owned business looks forward to helping over 150 employees prosper and take care of their families.”
Funding and services to support Ison Furniture’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.
“Our initial plan was to open the factory in North Carolina, but Virginia was far and away a better option,” said Rodney Terry, Vice President of Business Development for Dogwood Global, LLC. “The economic environment Virginia has built over the years gave us the confidence that our financial investment would be secure. We told the economic development group that we had contracts we had to fill, and the speed moved on this project blew us away. Virginia is ready for business.”
Northam approved a $186,500 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Pittsylvania County with the project. The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission approved $86,500 from the Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund.
“This announcement is yet another demonstration of the excellence of Pittsylvania County’s workforce and the effectiveness of our efforts to bring high-quality manufacturing jobs to our locality and region,” said Bob Warren, Chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. “We are thankful that Ison Furniture, as well as Dogwood Global, LLC, have decided to expand into Pittsylvania County, and we are excited to see the positive and long-term impacts for our citizens that come from this project.”
The Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission also approved $23,500 from TROF for Dogwood Global, LLC.
“The fact that our region successfully competed for this project demonstrates that the investments we have made to ensure that Southern Virginia is a great place to do business are paying off,” said Tobacco Commission member Dr. Alexis Ehrhardt. “We have a skilled workforce ready to start on day one, and I look forward to seeing Ison Furniture begin the hiring process.”
“I am delighted that Ison has chosen to come to our area,” Sen. Frank Ruff (R-15) said. “I have no doubt that they will find good, hardworking employees and a welcoming community.”
Ison is already actively hiring and looking to begin operations as soon as possible.
“Our region and the Axton location are a great match for Ison Furniture,” said Delegate Danny Marshall (R-14). “The manufacturing space, the trained and experienced furniture-building workforce, and the community enthusiasm are already here. We welcome Ison Furniture’s investment in our community and the 150 jobs it will bring. We thank the leadership of Ison Furniture for selecting our area and wish the company great success here."
Those who are interested in a job should call Mike McPeak, Director of Manufacturing Operations for Ison Furniture Manufacturing, at 276-340-0713.