Hed: Grant to pave way for industry expansion in Ecru
By Jane Hill
ECRU - A $240,000 Community Development Block Grant that will help finance the upgrading of a county road connecting Mississippi Highways 348 and 15 has been awarded to the town of Ecru.
Ecru Mayor Sam Newsum said he was notified by the state Department of Economic and Community Development last week that the town's application had been approved. The grant money will go toward bringing Q.T. Todd Road up to state aid road specifications and should help ease traffic congestion during peak hours to and from the Ashley Furniture Industries plant that is on the road.
Q.T. Todd Road is about 0.8 of a mile long and now is little more than a narrow county road. Newsum said improving and widening it will not only improve traffic flow, but safety conditions in the city.
Specifications for the road must be written and advertised for bids before work on the road can begin, but officials are hoping to have the work done this construction season, he said.
Teresa Hooker, a grant specialist working with the Three Rivers Planning and Development District in Pontotoc, said the town was fortunate to receive the grant because funding for projects such as this is now very low.
Hooker said the state considered the $726,000 expansion investment that Ashley Furniture Industries is making in its Ecru plant when evaluating the application.
A spokesman for Ashley Furniture said Tuesday that this expansion is the second the plant has undertaken since it located in Ecru in April 1994. The first 75,000-square-foot expansion was completed in January 1995.
The project currently under construction will expand the company's manufacturing and warehouse space by 60,000 square feet.
Another phase of the expansion will add 15,000 square feet, dedicated to office space and a design center. Current estimates put the final construction costs at close to $1 million, the spokesman said.
Company officials hope to see the entire project completed by the end of July or early August, he said.
Ashley Furniture Industries is the third largest privately owned furniture company in the United States. Its home office is in Arcadia, Wis.
The Ashley plant in Ecru employs about 325 people currently and is the only Ashley-owned company in Northeast Mississippi.
The Ashley spokesman said final estimates are not in on how many positions will be opened by the expansion currently under way, but said there would definitely be jobs created in the manufacturing division.
Newsum said he was very pleased with Ashley's continued prosperity and said he was glad that Ecru could participate in helping the industry grow.