In early 2021, Industrial Timber Inc.’s plant in rural Alexander County had a pressing need to expand production to meet skyrocketing demand for the ready-to-assemble wooden furniture frames it produces for the upholstered furniture industry.
That was the topic of a meeting Kevin Wiley, president of the Charlotte-based company, had at his Hiddenite, N.C., plant in January with a team from the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) and the county economic development organization.
“Everyone had gotten stir crazy sitting at home during the pandemic looking at their furniture,” Wiley said. So, new furniture sales climbed, along with supply chain demands.
To help meet demand, Wiley told the team visiting his plant about plans to hire 10 new employees and invest over $1 million to convert existing plant office area to manufacturing space and significantly upgrade equipment. Listening closely were John Loyack, EDPNC vice president of global business services; Bill Slagle, EDPNC existing industry expansions manager; and David Icenhour, executive director of the Alexander County Economic Development Corporation.
“We initially thought all we would need to help them would be applying for a state building reuse grant and customized training,” Slagle said. But an inspection later determined the plant’s septic system capacity couldn’t handle the headcount growth.
Partnering to Solve the Issue
The plant began searching for a site in a nearby county where it could relocate, if necessary, to expand. Slagle and Icenhour explored whether the plant could still grow onsite by connecting to sewer at the nearby Alexander County Industrial Park.
“We decided to apply for a Golden LEAF Foundation grant that would extend a sewer line to the edge of the company’s property while expanding wastewater infrastructure inside the park to open up a new industrial site there,” Icenhour said.
The county ultimately won a $193,776 Golden LEAF grant to fund the wastewater work. “The grant was critical in helping the company grow at its current location while at the same time setting the stage for future development at the park,” Icenhour said.
The county also received an $80,000 state building reuse grant to support Industrial Timber’s $1.4 million in renovations to expand manufacturing.
“It’s always great to work with the EDPNC because they have so many options and contacts at their fingertips that a rural county doesn’t always have,” Icenhour said. “That helps us create jobs in our counties.”
Industrial Timber’s expansion will add 10 hires to its roughly 60-person workforce in Alexander County. The new sewer capacity will also lift limits on future plant headcount. Consequently, Wiley says he is already exploring a building addition that could add another 20 employees.