Harvest Grant to Chamber's Partnership for Economic Growth Results in Community Jobs

January 15, 2004

Bulletin Staff Writer

A major cabinet manufacturer plans to locate a factory in Henry County and create 745 jobs.

The coming of MasterBrand Cabinets Inc. of Jasper, Ind., the second-largest cabinet maker in the U.S., was announced by Gov. Mark Warner in his State of the Commonwealth speech Wednesday night. He will elaborate on the details at 4 p.m. today in the first-floor conference room of the Henry County Administration Building.

Warner called the development "the largest job announcement in Southside Virginia in more than 30 years" in his speech.

The Fortune 400 company will locate in the former 5-B's Inc. facility in the Patriot Centre industrial park at Beaver Creek, according to Iriswood District Supervisor Paula Burnette.

It could not be determined Wednesday night whether the firm will purchase or rent the building, but the Henry County Board of Supervisors and the county Industrial Development Authority will meet at 9:30 a.m. today to discuss the disposition of real estate in connection with MasterBrand, according to Burnette and a county release.

The governor's office has not given a timetable on the company's establishment locally, and MasterBrand Vice President of Semi-Custom Operations Richard Farr deferred questions to the governor's announcement today.

The only thing Farr would say is that the company pays its employees "competitive wages."

MasterBrand Cabinets' brands include Aristokraft, Decora, Diamond, Kemper, NHB and Schrock. The company does custom cabinet work and molding through Aristokraft and Decora; provides laminate, maple and oak cabinet work through Diamond, Kemper and Schrock; and NHB does ready-to-assemble and assembled cabinets, according to Hoover's Online Web site.

In addition, MasterBrand makes bathroom vanity products and produces Home Depot's Thomasville-brand of cabinets.

The company is a subsidiary of Fortune Brands, which owns Moen faucets, Titleist golf balls and the Jim Beam liquor company. MasterBrand had sales of $1.15 billion in 2002, according to Hoover's. It employed 6,000 people in 2002, the most recent figures available.

The cabinet maker has been in operation since at least 1926, according to the company's Web site.

In his speech Wednesday night, Warner said he met with MasterBrand executives "some time ago" and pitched the idea of locating a factory in Henry County after executives said they were looking to expand operations.

Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Collinsville, elaborated on that story during a telephone interview Wednesday from the capitol, noting that the state has been in discussion with MasterBrand since Pillowtex closed its Fieldale factory in July, idling nearly 1,000 workers.

Armstrong said the day after the closing, when Warner came to visit the area, MasterBrand officials coincidentally were there touring facilities with Henry County officials, who had been courting them for some time. Warner's staff arranged for him to meet with them at Blue Ridge Airport and negotiations continued from there.

Henry County's Blackberry District Supervisor Jim Adams said that the county first learned of MasterBrand last year. While he could not attach a date to the encounter, he noted that it was "months before" Pillowtex's closing.

"They've made numerous visits here" since then, Adams said.

Burnette noted that the county competed with a locality in North Carolina for the facility, but she did not remember which locality.

Part of that competition involved inducement money, and large amounts of it have come from state and local agencies to bring MasterBrand to Henry County.

Former state Attorney General Mary Sue Terry of Patrick County, who serves on the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, said the commission is attaching a "substantial" sum to the deal. She declined to elaborate.

Additional incentives were provided by the Chamber's Partner in Economic Growth (C-PEG) and The Harvest Foundation. Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce President Kim Adkins said C-PEG will give the company a $1.2 million inducement. Of that amount, $1 million came from the foundation in the form of a grant it gave C-PEG back in September to draw industry to the area. according to Harry Cerino, foundation executive director.

Adams and Burnette both noted that the county is working on a performance agreement.

"A deal's not a deal until the ink's dry, and there still are some papers to sign on this," Adams said, but declined to elaborate.

Burnette added that the county did an extensive background check on the firm to ensure it is financially viable.


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