DENNIS SEID: Furniture academy is pipeline to future – Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal



As clearly demonstrated last week, the furniture industry in Northeast Mississippi is doing well.

Southern Motion said it was adding 12 production lines and 600 workers over the next five years at its newest facility in Baldwyn. The company bought Hancock Fabrics’ former warehouse, distribution center and headquarters, and has plenty of room to grow.

The company already employs nearly 1,500 people at its plants in Pontotoc and another in Baldwyn.

Southern Motion has a history of delivering on its promises and then some. In August 2010, it announced a $7 million, 180,000-square-foot expansion in Pontotoc, promising 200 new jobs within two years. The company had added 300 by the time the Baldwyn plant was ready to open.

With demand continuing to grow, it wouldn’t be surprising to see those 600 new jobs added in less than five years.

Southern Motion isn’t the only one growing. Last July, H.M. Richards – who is Southern Motion’s neighbor in the Harry A. Martin North Lee Industrial Park – announced an $8 million expansion that will add 500 jobs over three years. United Furniture Industries has added some 500 workers in the past year alone and employs some 2,000 workers across the region. Ashley Furniture now employs 4,000 in the region, and more could be on their way as it closes a facility in California.

Other companies also have opened in Northeast Mississippi, showing that the furniture industry is holding its own.

The industry has been in place in the region for more than 60 years, and it has been the source of employment for many. But as the years have gone by, the industry has consolidated and gotten smaller.

While the past couple of years have been good, the industry isn’t back at its peak from the early 2000s.

Still, the need for workers and management in the future industry is important, which is why some area furniture companies, in collaboration with the Franklin Furniture Institute at Mississippi State University, Itawamba Community College and Northeast Mississippi Community College are getting ready to launch a “furniture academy.”

The program is still in its planning stages, but the premise is that students at ICC and Northeast can enroll in furniture industry training classes that will cover the “necessary skills,” according to Bill Martin, the director of the Franklin Institute.

“There also will be training on OSHA, financial management and things like that. Once they graduate, the furniture companies will give them preference in their hiring process,” Martin said.

“Once they get their skills training from the community colleges, then each of the furniture companies can use workforce development money to go into teaching the manufacturing skill sets within the plants.”

And furniture jobs pay well. According to recent research at MSU, the industry pays about $33,000 a year.

Having an academy for the still-vibrant furniture industry is building a good pipeline for its future.

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or


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