Engineered Floors plans to create 2,000 new jobs in Northwest Georgia during the next five years, building at least one new carpet factory in Whitfield County, bringing some much-needed good news to an area hit hard since 2008 when the recession began.
Chairman and CEO Robert E. “Bob” Shaw said Wednesday the company will invest more than $450 million in Northwest Georgia during that time. Shaw declined to say exactly where the new factory will be built, but local officials said it will be on the south end of the county.
“This just confirms what we have been saying for the last five years,” said Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb. “People have announced our death much too quickly. We are still a great place to do business. This will not only be helpful to Dalton and Whitfield County but to the surrounding region.”
Shaw said Engineered Floors could more than double its Northwest Georgia workforce during those five years. By comparison, the total number of jobs in the Metro Dalton area, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties, is 5,000 fewer now than in 2008, and the area has seen double-digit unemployment for much of that time. The unemployment rate dropped to 10.3 percent in March of this year, down from 11 percent in February, and it was 11.8 percent in March a year ago.
Based in Dalton, Engineered Floors has expanded rapidly since its founding in 2009. It currently employs some 1,200 people in facilities in Dalton and Calhoun. It produces stain-resistant and colorfast PureColor solution dyed polyester yarns for residential replacement, builder and multi-family housing carpets. The company acquired Dream Weaver Carpets, which specializes in quality residential carpets, two years ago.
Shaw, who previously served as CEO of Shaw Industries, which he co-founded (and is now part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway), said not all of the jobs will be added at the new facility and the company could build other facilities as well.
“This is about our fifth expansion,” Shaw said. “We are just completing an expansion of our Dalton facilities. In fact, we won’t complete that expansion until the end of this year. This is really just a continuation of our growth. It just happened to be a new location.”
Shaw said state government provided some “cooperation” for the company’s plans. He declined to give details. But he did say the General Assembly’s decision last year to phase out the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing was helpful.
Babb and Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson said Wednesday afternoon that neither the county nor the Dalton-Whitfield Joint Development Authority have signed agreements with Engineered Floors to assist with the construction of a new facility.
“We’ve been working with them on ways the community can assist them, and when we have an agreement finalized and signed we will announce the details,” said Anderson.
Anderson said he did not yet know when an agreement might be signed.
Both men said the company should qualify for the county’s property tax abatement incentives.
“That isn’t something we would do just for Engineered Floors,” Babb said. “It’s available to any company that expands or locates here. We just plug the amount they’ll invest and the number of jobs they create into our matrix and that tells us how much the incentive will be.”
Babb said the planned site is “not in the Carbondale Business Park, but it’s in that area. And I’m sure there will be some discussion about extending sewer and natural gas to the property. That’s going to create a lot of new truck traffic down there, so I’m sure we’ll have to look at improving the roads down there to handle that.”
Babb said any infrastructure improvements would not just benefit Engineered Floors but would also open up surrounding properties to development.
A press release from the Georgia Department of Economic Development said Engineered Floors will also be building a facility in Murray County. But Shaw on Wednesday indicated that announcement may be premature.
“There could well be two new facilities. But we will only build one this year,” he said.
Murray County Sole Commissioner Brittany Pittman said there have been discussions about a facility in Murray County.
“But nothing has been signed regarding the project at this point,” she said. “We are hoping that will happen fairly quickly.”
Pittman said she could not say where the facility would be located until an agreement had been reached. But she said it is good news for Murray County that Engineered Floors is considering it for a new plant.
“We are elated that they may be coming to our community. It’s a great opportunity,” she said. “It would be a huge boost to our economy.”
Larry Johnson, dean of the Dalton State College School of Business, said the Engineered Floors expansion could have a major impact on Northwest Georgia.
“Manufacturing, not necessarily carpet, creates about four indirect jobs for every manufacturing job created,” Johnson said.
Anderson said Engineered Floors’ plans are “part of the continued rebuilding and revival of the flooring industry.”
“Each company is doing different things to capitalize on an improving marketplace. We are very excited when even one job is announced or any investment is announced. But we want our entire community and all our industry to be healthy,” he said.