New life for old furniture factory as jobs move to Lenoir - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

New life for old furniture factory as jobs move to Lenoir

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An old Broyhill Furniture Plant in Lenoir that shut down almost four years ago is about to become a place of work again. This time it will not be a furniture operation but rather, something new to the area.

A company that manufactures steel containers and equipment for the disposal and recycling industries is moving its operations there. Bakers Waste Equipment hopes to start building bins at the Lenoir site sometime in April. It is consolidating operations it already has in Burke and Catawba Counties. 80 jobs from those facilities will be moved to the Lenoir site.

"All have been offered jobs and incentives to come here and work," said company CEO Ric Raines. "Anyone who doesn't come will have to be replaced immediately." In addition to those 80 jobs, the company plans to expand and add another 60 workers over the next year or two, said Raines.

"It's a great thing for our county," said Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Deborah Murray. "To breathe new life into the old building and put people back to work is a big plus."

The company will need welders as well as others, she said. Donna Beam at Caldwell Community College said classes have been set up to teach people welding skills and to put them on the path to earn their certification.

"We started revamping the programs we have in anticipation of Bakers Waste Equipment coming here," she said.  Some of the programs to train the workers can be paid for by grants. People wanting to take the courses should contact the college to see what is available and if they can take the courses for free.

Raines said he expects the business to be a stable fixture in the area. "The recycling industry is growing and we are a big supplier to them."

At the Employment Security Commission office on Monday, Michael Jennings was desperately seeking jobs on the computers at the office. He has been out of work for two years. When told of the possible openings at Bakers Waste Equipment, a smile came to his face. "I have some welding experience," he said. Jennings said he would apply for one of the positions with hopes of finding work soon. "My unemployment has run out and I'm pretty much stuck," he said.

At the old Broyhill plant, there already is activity. More than two dozen people are busy preparing the building for the new manufacturing operations. Some walls must be torn down and old debris cleared to make room for the new equipment. It has meant jobs to several local contractors.

Charles Lockamy was cutting away an old stairwell and said without this renovation work "I would be one of the thousands here on the unemployment line."

The company is investing $2,000,000 to move its operations to Lenoir.  Some of that money is being offset by grants from the state and from Caldwell County as well. That total could be close to $800,000 depending on how many people are hired at the facility and when.

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