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Burke County Brings Competitive Advantage for the Furniture Industry

September 10, 2010: If you have read Thomas Friedman?s book, ?The World is Flat,? you may have gotten the impression that without significant changes American manufacturing would become obsolete as we were all thrust into a global economy. The specifics for North Carolina supported this theory with nearly 80,000 jobs lost between 2001 and 2007 as a result of trade with China. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 75% of those displaced jobs were in manufacturing.

So after massive layoffs and closings in the furniture industry, why consider owning a manufacturing plant and more importantly, why Burke County? Charlie Rice of Kellex Corporation gave a straightforward answer: ?Burke County provides the core elements to leverage a company?s competitive edge: skilled labor force, quality production teams, and a close proximity to suppliers.?

The foundation of Kellex Corporation dates back to 1994, to humble beginnings in a room over a garage in Northern Ohio. In 2008, the owners took a risk that many believed was a sure plan for failure. After all, who in their right mind would invest in a 350,000 square foot furniture manufacturing plant in rural Valdese, North Carolina? The investment came on the heels of a previous decade of massive layoffs and U.S. plant closings in the furniture industry. The driving force behind the owners of Kellex Corporation investing in America?s craftsmanship is simple, yet profound: ?We believe in American quality, and we believe in the American people.?

With strong leadership and commitment to the industry base that continues to grow here, Burke County has positioned itself as an attractive location for any company. Speaking specifically to the furniture industry, Burke Development Inc. President Scott Darnell confirms: ?We have a strong supply chain for furniture in our region. Our companies are seeing a competitive advantage because of close proximity to suppliers. Any manufacturer would dream of having most of their suppliers within a 30 mile radius. In addition, Burke County has an unbelievable brain trust of former furniture industry executives who built some of the largest names in the industry. To have the ability to pull from this expertise is something very few communities can equal. We have a strong team of professionals who understand what was done right and wrong in the furniture industry, and how we can do it better in the future.?

Thomas Friedman?s synopsis of the adversities of globalization in ?The World is Flat? did indeed provide much to consider about the future. Friedman challenged readers to be more aware of the surroundings and less complacent about the days ahead. Burke County has more than a general awareness of what has happened in the past and we are continuously working to improve the business landscape for the future. With the private/public partnership of Burke Development Inc. at the helm of economic development efforts, the county is pushing for growth and sustainability in the furniture industry, resulting in a competitive edge for companies in Burke County.


Burke Development Incorporated, BDI, is a nonprofit 501c3 organization supported by private and public funding that is charged with accelerating economic growth in Burke County. BDI works with industry leaders, site selection consultants, existing businesses, government agencies and other entities to promote growth, innovation and sustainability in Burke County. For more information about BDI visit www.BurkeDevInc.com.

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