CATEGORY: Economics



By Stephen Singer

Daily Journal

RIPLEY - A federal economic development grant has given an assist to a Ripley furniture company's expansion that pumped nearly $1 million into the local economy and is expected to create 60 jobs.

Ripley received $294,100 to relocate water pipes and build an access road as part of an expansion by the Gentry Gallery Inc.

Gentry Gallery, a manufacturer of motion upholstery furniture, recently built an 85,000-square-foot warehouse as part of a plan to begin a rapid delivery system, said Duane Bullard, the company's director of administrative services.

The company's investment in construction, equipment purchases and inventory totals $990,000.

By keeping ready-to-ship products on hand, Gentry can ship products to customers in one or two days. Orders for products that are not on a ready-to-ship status require three or four weeks for delivery, Bullard said.

Gentry also is targeting a new market with Sedona, a subsidiary that will produce higher-priced stationary leather furniture. Sedona is to begin operation by Aug. 1, Bullard said.

The firm lacked space to store furniture targeted for quick delivery, he said. Funding was needed to relocate water lines and connect Mississippi Highway 15 to the warehouse entrance.

Ripley received a Community Development Block Grant from the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development. Funding originates at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is distributed to the states.

Federal rules require that slightly more than half of the new jobs must be available to low- and moderate-income workers, said Jim Reeves, manager in the state agency's Development Assistance Bureau.

Gentry, a privately owned company founded in 1985, employs 550 workers, Bullard said. A planned hiring would bring the payroll to more than 600, he said.

Ripley may be among the last recipients of the grant. The state agency is no longer accepting applications for funding.

Officials ended the program May 31 because applications outstripped available money, Reeves said.

Requests for loans are still being considered.

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