After arson destroyed 70 percent of the factory last fall, managers and employees at Behold Washington Furniture are eagerly anticipating completion of a new building, and a return to optimum efficiency.

Crews continue building a $14 million, 400,000-square-foot facility in Pontotoc’s Industrial Park that leaders hope will be up-and-running by late October. The facility is about 70 percent complete, officials said.

“We’ll have more than 20 loading docks, which will help with our ability to quick-ship finished goods to retailers,” said John Beard, vice-president in charge of sales. “Once the new building is complete, customers can pick-up anything they want in a week. We’ve been working hard to consolidate our SKU counts, making things more efficient, and creating higher inventory levels on products that sell,” Beard said.

Tupelo-based Century Construction started building the new warehouse in March.

Shuttling products to off-site warehouses has kept the company from hitting its full stride since the fire, said CEO Lyle Harris, but employees in Pontotoc and Smithville have pulled together.

“Smithville really had to step-up, and our hats are off to them,” said Harris. The fine employees in Smithville never waivered in their commitment. They’ve done an outstanding job,” said Harris, adding that the employees in Monroe County filled orders to help Pontotoc keep up.

The Sept. 26 fire destroyed the Pontotoc campus’s wood mill, cutting and sewing facilities, offices, manufacturing space, finished goods warehouse, and maintenance shop.

All Behold Washington personnel have shown exemplary dedication and worked hard driving the company’s recovery, Harris said.

“We never considered moving anywhere else,” said Harris. “You drive through Pontotoc, and you see a moving, vibrant community, and the workforce here is exceptional.” Harris, along with other management, met with all 300 employees immediately after the fire, reassuring them that their jobs were secure, even handing out checks on Sept. 28. The company hasn’t cut any jobs since the fire, Harris said.

Beard reaffirmed Harris’s commitment to Pontotoc County.

“We knew that our dream of building back this terrific place to work wouldn’t be possible without first taking care of our employees,” said Beard.

Investigators with the State Fire Marshall’s Office and the ATF announced on Sept. 28 they’d determined the fire had been set and they were investigating. Law-enforcement is still searching for the culprit, and Behold-Washington is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Among the new building’s features are more cameras and upgraded access control, built to today’s highest standards, Harris said.

“The whole backstop to the building project is making a more secure environment,” said Harris.

Crews are building new offices across the street from the temporary location. “We’ll be in close proximity to the manufacturing facility, and we’ll have a state-of-the-art conference room,” said Harris.

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