As it started to look for a locality to expand its operation, Virginia was the last place on the mind of Vanguard Furniture.
But executives of the company credited the work and persistence of Carroll County Administrator Gary Larrowe and staff as the reason for the July 15 announcement that the North Carolina-based company will bring 200 jobs to the county. A high-end upholstery producer, Vanguard Furniture will invest $550,000 to establish its first Virginia household furniture upholstery production operation in Carroll County. The project will begin operations in August as the company will be located in the Parkdale Building in the Carroll County Industrial Park.
“We started this process sometime mid-January of actually going out and looking for a new facility,” said Joe Royall, Chief Financial Officer for Vanguard. “When we started this process we thought we were pretty smart guys, and I don’t think anybody on our team would have thought we would be in Carroll County today.”
Royall said the company initially began looking for buildings in the Mount Airy, N.C. area because Vanguard had took in employees of the Henredon Furniture Company that closed last year. Vanguard CEO John Bray said he told those employees if they would invest in the company and make the 90-minute drive to Hickory, N.C. to help Vanguard with labor shortages, Vanguard would in return invest in them with a plant closer to home.
Royall said Vanguard looked at 10-12 buildings, mostly in the Mount Airy area, but nothing seemed to fit. While looking at another building in Conover, Royal said a contact suggested Carroll County.
“He said, ‘There is a building in Virginia you might want to look at.’ I thought, Virginia? We’re not going to go to Virginia,” Royall said. “He said, ‘You need to meet Gary Larrowe. He is very aggressive. Why don’t you talk to him?’ I said give him my name and I will talk to him.”
Royall said he eventually came to Carroll County and was very excited about the building, but even more impressed with Larrowe “because of the story Gary had to tell about Carroll County and the state of Virginia.”
“John Bray has a saying that you’ve got to dream it before you can do it. To be frank, I had to sleep on this one before I could dream it,” Royall said. “But Gary kept in contact and we kept talking about the project. The project evolved because we kept asking Gary questions and Gary kept giving us answers. And every time an obstacle would come up, he met that obstacle.”
Eventually, Royall said Larrowe and Tom Elliot of Virginia’s aCorridor made a presentation to Vanguard Furniture. Although the group felt “really good” about the proposal, Royal said he still had concerns.
“And then we had additional conversations and Gary alleviated those concerns. It came very apparent to not only myself, but to the rest of the team, that moving to Virginia was not only the best path for Vanguard because of the operation, it was the best path for Vanguard because of the partnerships we have with Carroll County, its staff, and the state of Virginia,” Royall said. “I’ve worked on projects in three different states, the state of North Carolina, New York and Alabama, and I can say without a doubt each of those states have a lot to learn from the state of Virginia.”
Bray praised Carroll County officials for “progressive, out-of-the-box thinking” to pull off the project.
“I have been around long enough to tell you that just doesn’t happen because the sun is coming up,” Bray said. “It happens because people care and they are thinking about the constituents they represent. It takes people who care about their community to make these investments and pull off these projects. We appreciate what you have done and we look forward to being a significant part of your community.”
Bray said Vanguard is committed to being a good community partner. Education and workforce development are important to the company, so he said Vanguard would be partnering with educators in the community. It will look to partner with local community colleges to set up training programs, he said. The company also takes pride in the health of its employees, so it invests greatly in employees’ healthcare.
“We feel like when this facility is fully staffed that we will be able to double our upholstery business,” Bray said. “We look forward to being good citizens of the community and good neighbors.”
Senator Bill Carico was on hand to express his gratitude for Vanguard’s investment in the community.
“Vanguard is a good thing for Carroll County. It is all about Virginia creating an atmosphere for jobs like this to be brought here and that is what we have worked for in the General Assembly,” Carico said. “I am truly blessed to be a part of this today and I know you will be blessed to be part of Carroll County.”
Delegate Jeff Campbell called July 15 a great day to be in Carroll County. He praised Carroll for having a very proactive and aggressive board of supervisors and county administrator.
“Two hundred jobs is a big impact on any community,” Campbell said. “Carroll County is desperately in need of them. I think…the tide is beginning to turn in regard to industrial development in this country.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 728-7311 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN