By Lynn West
New Albany Gazette
NEW ALBANY – While some people may think the furniture industry is in decline in North Mississippi, that’s not the case with Emerald Mississippi in New Albany.
The Washington-based company held a formal ribbon cutting Tuesday after a nearly $2 million renovation of the almost-derelict former Hickory Springs facility.
About half the funding came from Tennessee Valley Authority and Mississippi Development Authority sources and the rest from Emerald. The company is leasing the plant from Union County and is in the process of buying it.
“We think we can make as good a product here as anywhere in the world,” CEO and owner David Beckmann said “We want to be a company known for its integrity. We want to hire and retain the best people.”
The home furnishings company had long been dealing in imports, but Beckmann said, “We felt it was time to bring some jobs back here.”
Parent company Emerald Home Furnishings has been selling an assortment of home furnishing items for more than 50 years, and has been using a warehouse at the Denmill Industrial Park that is part of the Emerald property for distribution for nearly a year. This is the company’s first venture into manufacturing upholstered furniture.
The plant has one line operating, but manager Terry Treadaway said they are still in the training phase.
“We will grow based on demand,” he said, noting the plant has about 35 employees to start. He also said 10 trucks will be ready to ship furniture by the end of next week.
Growth is in Beckmann’s plan. Industrial developer Josh West of Three Rivers Planning and Development said perhaps the main reason Beckmann chose the Hickory Springs site over others was space.
In addition to the plant, the company was able to buy property from the city and adjacent former farmland.
“We have 85 acres,” Beckmann said. “That’s 4 million square feet, and you usually can get about half that in useable space.” The current plant has about 200,000 square feet.
Beckmann told the crowd earlier that he envisions the plant growing to 10 times its present size.
“This shows what determination and resources can accomplish when focused,” Union County Development Association Executive Director Phil Nanney said. “I have never seen a man more focused.”
West thanked funding and elected officials for their support in the project, which he said had actually taken five years to develop. “We have one common goal,” he said, “more and better jobs for Mississippi.”
While the project may have taken time, Beckmann did not hesitate in the end about locating in New Albany.
“It was a real easy decision to make,” he said. “I know we made the right choice.”
Although the New Albany plant has a large showroom, Treadaway confirmed that Emerald Mississippi will be showing at the Fall Tupelo Furniture Market this week.
Beckmann said the sky is the limit for what the company can do, but they are thinking about going into motion furniture and he plans to add a finish line to the New Albany facility.