ECRU • Marking its 75th anniversary as a company, as well as its 25th year of doing business in Mississippi, Ashley Furniture Industries broke ground Friday on a $25 million expansion project.

The state will chip in with a $3 million grant for site preparation and building construction. The company – the world’s largest furniture manufacturer and furniture retailer with more than $4.9 billion in annual sales – also qualifies for the Advantage Jobs Rebate program, which provides a cash rebate to eligible businesses that create new jobs that meet or exceed the average annual wage of the state or the county in which the company locates.

The 437,000 square-foot facility expansion in Ecru will be the 14th and largest expansion of the facility and will take about 18 months to complete.

A truck maintenance center for its fleet of trucks has to be moved first before construction can begin, but that work should begin soon, said Ashley founder and chairman Ron Ashley.

“There’s been a lot of changes on this site in the last 25 years, but it’s been great,” Wanek said.

Ashley Furniture’s expansion will involve building an additional 403,000 square feet onto its existing facility, which is nearly 2 million square feet.

When the work is complete, Ashley’s Ecru campus will cover 50 acres under roof. Twenty-five years ago, Ashley began with a 129,000-square-foot facility on 21 acres. The company now sits on 125 acres.

Joining the groundbreaking ceremony was Gov. Phil Bryant, who praised Wanek as a “captain of industry” who “helped save furniture manufacturing” in the United States.

“Northeast Mississippi’s furniture industry is a strong economic driver throughout the region, employing thousands of Mississippians – many of whom are employed at Ashley Furniture,” Bryant said. “Ashley has had tremendous success at its Ecru facility, and the addition of 100 more jobs for the area’s skilled workforce will help ensure the company enjoys many more years of growth and success in Pontotoc County.”

According to the company, the added building will provide Ashley with a better “speed to market” approach by storing more furniture onsite to better serve the region’s customers as well as keep its transportation fleet well-maintained.

Ashley’s Ecru plant is the world’s largest upholstered furniture manufacturing facility.

Ashley employs more than 3,200 workers at its Ecru and Ripley manufacturing plants, as well as facilities in Verona and Saltillo. The Ecru plant alone employs more than 2,200.

The expansion allows additional storage for Ashley’s mattress plant in Saltillo and its motion furniture plant in Ripley.

The need to get Ashley products to its customers as soon as possible led to the newest expansion, Wanek said.

“It’s the Amazon effect, which has changed a lot of businesses,” he said. “We have to have a lot more goods in stock, and if we want this facility to remain successful and be a distribution point then we have to have more room ... it’s a great investment, and we look forward to the future.”

Twitter: @dennisseid

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