United Chair to add 125 jobs in Bruce

n County welcomes needed jobs in high jobless climate.
By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – In the governor’s offices in the Sillers Building are about 50 Zody office chairs manufactured by United Chair.
Michigan-based Haworth Inc., the owner of United Chair, announced Thursday that those office chairs will be produced at its plant in Bruce, creating an additional 125 jobs.
About 180 employees already work at the Bruce plant.
Gov. Haley Barbour announced the expansion at a news conference Thursday, flanked by Calhoun County officials, legislators, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and Haworth officials.
amp”This is great news for the state of Mississippi, especially during these tough economic times,amp” Barbour said.
Kevin Bailey, Haworth’s vice president for North American operations, said the Bruce plant is being expanded in an effort by the company to get amp”leanamp” by better leveraging its existing facilities and equipment.
The company has 14 North American plants. It is closing a plant in Michigan by mid-year and moving those operations – the manufacture of the Zody office chair – to existing space in the Bruce plant. Equipment will be moved, but no additional construction will be needed at the plant.
The Mississippi Development Authority will provide $500,000 to help with needed infrastructure improvements such as roads and water and sewer work and to help move equipment from Michigan to Bruce.
The federally funded Appalachian Regional Commission will kick in $219,000 and the city of Bruce and Calhoun County will provide $115,000 – much of that in-kind services.
Bruce Mayor Robert Oakley said much of the local contribution will be in-kind services – such as infrastructure improvements – that will benefit the whole community.
Sen. Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, said the Bruce expansion is especially welcome at a time when Northeast Mississippi furniture manufacturing employment is declining because of jobs moving to foreign countries.
The jobs being created will average $13.44 per hour.
Rep. Jim Beckett, R-Bruce, said his brother used to work at United Chair.
amp”The company has been in Bruce for a long time,amp” Beckett said. amp”They are good folks to work for, and this is good for the area.amp”
Haworth is closing a plant in Allegan, Mich., that employed about 350 at full strength. That closing was announced in November.
“The expansion of our workforce during a downturn in the economy is strong evidence of cooperation we have among our federal, state and local entities,” U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran said. “Teamwork is important to expanding our job opportunities.”
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker said, “Over the past 14 years, I have been a strong advocate in Congress for Mississippi’s furniture industry. At a time when we are competing with other states and countries around the world, it is gratifying to see Haworth confirm the quality of Mississippi workers and the value of doing business in our state. Mississippi’s furniture industry has been a source of pride in our state. This announcement will help ensure that pride continues.”
“During these challenging economic times, companies face difficult decisions regarding where to focus production. This announcement clearly demonstrates Haworth’s confidence in Mississippi as the right place to do business,” said Gray Swoope, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority. “Recent decisions of companies like Cooper Tire, Holley Performance Products and now Haworth to not only retain their Mississippi facilities but to expand operations here and hire additional workers confirms the Momentum Mississippi legislation works for both new jobs and retention.”
The entire United Chair seating collection has received GREENGUARDamp® Indoor Air Quality and GREENGUARDamp® Children and Schools certifications by the Greenguard Environmental Institute, a designation that confirms these products do not emit harmful levels of pollutants into the air. United Chair is a division of Groupe Lacasse and both are owned by Haworth Inc.
As a global leader in the design and manufacture of office furniture and organic workspaces, Haworth products include raised access floors, moveable walls, systems furniture, seating, storage and wood casegoods. Family-owned and privately held, Haworth is headquartered in Holland, Michigan, and serves markets in more than 120 countries through a global network of 600 dealers. The company had net sales of US $1.65 billion in 2008.

Mack Spencer