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Furniture factory to open this year in Lincolnton

A Lincoln County furniture factory will reopen this year with plans to hire around 130 people by the end of 2012.

That’s according to Bruce Cochrane, an industry veteran who will serve as the President and CEO of the new Lincolnton Furniture Company. It should begin production late this year.

The manufacturer will make solid wood furniture for bedrooms and dining rooms in the former Cochrane Furniture building off U.S. 321 business in Lincolnton.

Both Lincolnton and Lincoln County approved jobs-based grant money to help the company get started, according to Barry Matherly, executive director of the Lincoln Economic Development Association.

Once the factory hires 120 people and makes an investment of more than $2.7 million, both the city and county will offer around a combined $14,000 per year for five years.

Lincolnton Furniture will receive the money only after paying its taxes for each year.

CEO: The time is right for furniture

“We believe we can be very competitive,” Cochrane said.

He thinks the time is right to bring furniture production jobs back to the area given the state of the overseas market. Chinese furniture is getting more expensive while wages there are rising with indications they will continue to increase, he says.

The country’s consumption is also on the rise, meaning the Chinese are expected to begin using more of what they make, according to Cochrane.

“There’s opportunity not just in furniture but in all consumer goods,” he said.

He also thinks there’s a need for his product in the market, with little solid wood furniture made in Asia.

The Lincolnton Furniture Company budget calls for the manufacturer to sell $17 million worth of its product during its first full year in 2012.

Workers will begin shipping furniture in January, according to Cochrane. He intends to sell the pieces to dominant chains as well as independent retailers. Cochrane, who was president of his family’s Cochrane Furniture when it sold in 1996, already has contacts in the retail market.

“We’ve had a very enthusiastic response to what we’re doing,” he said.

When Cochrane Furniture sold in 1996, it had $80 million in sales per year, according to the company president.

Lincolnton Furniture Company has already received more than 100 applications mostly due to word of mouth about the startup, Cochrane said.

Others can apply at the Lincoln County Employment Security Commission.

The area has a large pool of experienced furniture workers, some of whom were among the 1,000 people who worked at Cochrane Furniture in 1996, before its 2008 shutdown.

Lincolnton Furniture will incorporate advanced technology in its woodworking and finishing systems.

“The latest generation in woodworking machinery offers tremendous opportunities to reduce cycle times, labor and improve yields, thus reducing our costs,” said Phillip Null, who will serve as vice president of manufacturing for Lincolnton Furniture.

“Our focus has been multi-purpose machinery that we can utilize 24 hours a day.”

Cochrane, Null and Chief Financial Officer Bruce Hric collaborated to form the Lincolnton company.

Lincolnton Furniture will use Appalachian hardwoods cherry maple and oak.

“Using sustainable resources and proven low impact, environmentally friendly materials will give us a very green footprint,” Cochrane said. “But the ultimate green story is that we will be making solid wood furniture that will last a lifetime.”

The company will preview its products at the fall and spring High Point International Furniture Markets.