Expansion of furniture plant to boost Berne – Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Smith Brothers of Berne plans to create up to 266 jobs in the next six years as it expands operations to occupy a 110,000-square-foot addition completed in November, state officials announced Tuesday.

The Adams County maker of high-end, residential furniture invested $5 million to build the two-story expansion onto its existing 215,000-square-foot factory. 

Smith Brothers will expand production of fabric and leather upholstered furniture to the second floor of the building addition after investing an additional $1.7 million in equipment. 

The 90-year-old manufacturer has openings for fabric and leather cutters, sewers and upholsterers. Average annual wages at the company are $35,000, said Mike Bonin, human resources director.

Anyone interested in applying for a job with Smith Brothers should go to the nearest WorkOne office, he said.

Smith Brothers sofas, love seats, sectionals and chairs are sold by retailers in more than 35 states. The company covers each of its 500 frame designs with one of 1,000 fabrics or 100 leathers. 

The company now employs more than 420, a 70-person increase from two years ago.

The city of Berne has offered the company a 10-year tax abatement on the investment, Bonin said. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered the company up to $1.75 million in conditional tax credits and up to $200,000 in training grants, based on its hiring plans. 

Gov. Mike Pence led the announcement Tuesday.

“Smith Brothers is a true Hoosier success story,” Pence said in a statement. “Founded with humble roots, Smith Brothers today operates a major enterprise, selling Hoosier-built furniture across the country. Indiana is proud to be home to Smith Brothers and other homegrown companies making it big in a business climate built for their growth.” 

Since 2009, the company has grown its sales more than 190 percent. The privately owned company does not release dollar figures.

Steve Lehman, Smith Brothers’ president and CEO, is one of four owners and the only one involved in daily operations.

He credits the company’s talented workforce, broad selection, high-quality products, fast delivery and superior customer service for driving growth at a time when other U.S. furniture manufacturers have struggled.

“We have a talented team of dedicated employees who never let up in those endeavors,” Lehman said in a statement.



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