April 27/May 4, 2015; Volume 29/Number 2
By Ken Ryan
Research has shown that many Americans buy Made in the USA products because they want to support American workers, and in the process keep manufacturing jobs from being outsourced. The flooring industry has done more than its fair share to expand the job market.
Mohawk Industries is just one flooring manufacturer that has demonstrated one of the most-valued components of American-made manufacturing: Making a significant investment in both local and national economies over the years has substantially contributed to U.S. job growth. In fact, the Atlanta Business Chronicle recognized Mohawk for adding the most jobs in Georgia during 2013, going from 25,100 at the end of 2012 to 32,100 at the end of the next year.
Shaw Industries is in the process of expanding manufacturing operations in the U.S. across a wide variety of product categories including resilient, hardwood and carpet. “Many of those expansions will be complete this year, and once all are fully operational, we’ll have created approximately 1,000 new jobs,” said Trey Thames, vice president of residential marketing and product management for Shaw.
Engineered Floors drew the attention of Georgia’s governor in 2013 when it announced it would open two new carpet plants that would employ more than 2,000 people in the state’s Northwest region. “As we have added manufacturing facilities since 2009, we have added personnel—starting with just a small handful when we broke ground back then to approaching almost 2,000 in 2015,” said James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman. “And because we are located in Northwest Georgia, we believe we have some of the most experienced and skilled carpet makers in the business on our team.”
Other companies, both big and small, are also doing their part to create jobs in the States. One is MP Global, which has grown to become a substantial employer in Nebraska, creating hundreds of jobs over the past 17 years. Somerset Hardwood currently has five production facilities in the U.S. and employs more than 800 people.
Kronotex USA first opened its current manufacturing facility in Barnwell, S.C., in 2005. Due to the growing popularity of Kronotex USA flooring—and now the American Concepts brand—the company invested $45 million in 2011 to expand the facility, almost doubling the size of its laminate flooring plant. The capacity of this site now makes it one of the largest producers of laminate flooring in America, with 173 employed at the Barnwell plant.
About nine months ago, Armstrong announced an onshoring investment in its Somerset, Ky., engineered plant, where the company manufactures its popular American Scrape hardwood line. “It is great to have an impact on a community like Somerset, where we have added about 80 jobs,” said Joe Bondi, vice president and general manager, North American residential flooring.
In Madison, Ga., where Mannington established a commercial LVT facility, the company has estimated it will create 219 new jobs through its recent plant expansion; more jobs will be generated over the next two years as the site’s growth continues. Meanwhile, the expansion of Mullican’s domestic production has produced an additional 170 jobs in Tennessee.
Dalton, one of the hardest-hit metro areas in the country during the Great Recession, led all mid-South metropolitan cities in the rate of job growth in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobless rate in Dalton fell in February 2015 to its lowest level in nearly seven years with the addition of 3,600 jobs, or 5.6% growth in employment, in the past 12 months.
Despite the positive changes, Dalton is still 12,700 jobs behind where it was a decade and a half ago. But thanks to efforts by the flooring industry—which accounts for 80% of the jobs in Dalton—the future continues to grow bright.