By ALISHA HOLDER

Managing Editor

Itawamba County continues to reap the rewards of its industrial investments, drawing business in with its good "feel" and bright future. The county this week added its third manufacturing facility in six months.

Furniture manufacturing company Max Home, LLC has officially announced its intent to locate in Fulton in the former River Oaks building. But furniture is not all Max Home is bringing to the county. Approximately 275 jobs will join this industry as they settle and call Itawamba home.

"We're confident we've made the right decision," said Larry Gentry, Max Home's chief financial officer. "We're very excited to be here. It just feels right."

But more than a good feeling led to Max Home's decision to select Itawamba County as the prime location.

"One thing certainly that played into us locating here was the availability of the building. Also, the community itself has a good reputation for hard-working individuals. We believe there is a good labor pool in Itawamba County because labor is being exported every day. We believe we can provide a good place to work so people in this county don't have to drive 40 to 50 miles to get a job," Gentry said.

The company will manufacture high end furniture, focusing primarily on department stores, including upholstered sofas, chairs, loveseats and ottomans. No motion furniture will be made.

"This project was facility-driven," said Tim Weston, executive director of the ICDC. "They wanted to start quickly. They've got a comfort level with this county and the people here. They continue to reinforce this is a community you just want to be in; that's the way it should be."

"We were also impressed by the city's overall cleanliness, how it was kept and the attitude of everybody we talked to - the mayor, the board of supervisors and Tim Weston. They deserve a pat on the back for what they are doing to locate industries here," Gentry said.

According to Gentry, the management team in place at Max Home is the same management team that started and grew Bahaus USA in Saltillo. The company plans to be in operations by this fall and shipping significant goods before the first of next year.

The company will purchase the 233,900-square-foot building, located just off the Access Road, and 19.26 acres of land, investing more than $2 million in the building, building renovations and equipment. Max Home will employ 275 people with an estimated payroll of $6.3 million per year. The company will have 24 months to start up operations and will seek to pay an average wage of 115 percent of the 2002 per capita income of Itawamba County.

County and city officials have agreed to rename the road adjoining the building to 101 Max Place.

For its part, the Itawamba County Board of Supervisors negotiated an incentive package to attract the project to Itawamba County over other potential locations.

"During the past four years, this board has made it a priority to recruit quality jobs for our residents. This is evidenced by the 500 plus jobs that have located in Itawamba County while other counties have lost jobs and closed factories," said Joey Sheffield, president of the Itawamba County Board of Supervisors.

In the last three years, Itawamba County's per capita income has increased $3,236 per resident and now is ranked No. 2 in Northeast Mississippi.

"I give a lot of credit to the cooperation and the good working relationship that we have between the board of supervisors, city government, and the ICDC," said Danny Holley, Fourth District supervisor.

"We've worked hard to make this a better place for the people of Itawamba County. This is a great plus for the county," said Pug Wilemon, Fifth District supervisor.

"We really appreciate the jobs they will be bringing in, especially since the economy has been so bad," said Rabern Thomas, First District supervisor.

"This company will be a great asset to the county as a whole. I'm so proud they chose to locate here and that 275 more jobs will be brought to Itawamba County," said John Marvin Smith, Second District supervisor.

"Any time you can bring an additional 200 plus jobs to the city and county, it is a great thing," said Paul Walker, mayor of Fulton.

The former River Oaks building was sold to Gerald Washington in 2001. After only a few months, he leased it to Action Lane, who occupied the building up to present.

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