A major flooring company is considering building a new factory – and hiring more than 2,000 workers – in northwest Georgia, an area hit hard by layoffs after the housing bust.
Two people with direct knowledge of the potential plan told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution a deal to bring the factory to Georgia is pending.
They declined to name the manufacturer, but a third person familiar with the plans said the company is Engineered Floors, founded by former Shaw Industries chief Bob Shaw.
The jobs announcement, which could come in the next two weeks, would be larger than the Baxter International bio-tech manufacturing campus planned for Social Circle, which would create 1,500 direct jobs, and Caterpillar’s tractor manufacturing site in Athens, set to employ another 1,400 people.
Shaw, who retired from his former company in 2005, started Calhoun-based Engineered Floors a few years ago with a focus on the growing apartment sector. The company built its first plant in Calhoun in 2009 and then broke ground on a second in Dalton in 2011.
A message left for an Engineered Floors executive was not immediately returned.
Gov. Nathan Deal hinted at a major jobs announcement Monday during an event to mark his signing of a bill to create a venture capital fund backed partly by public dollars. But he declined to name the prospect.
“We’re hopeful that there’s another big one very soon,” Deal said of a potential economic development announcement. “We work very closely with the individuals making the investments. And we work on their timetable. We haven’t quite gotten there yet, but we’re anxiously awaiting.”
The flooring industry, like many tied to new home construction, was battered when the home sales and the economy came to a near halt.
Dalton, in Whitfield County, about 90 miles north of downtown Atlanta, is known as the Carpet Capital of the World, and counties throughout the area are dotted with assembly lines devoted to manufacturing various types of textile and solid surface flooring.
But the region gained the distinction of being the metro area that shed the most jobs of any in the nation from June 2011 to June 2012, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The region has lost more than 13,000 jobs from its July 2006 peak, according to federal statistics, and the metro area’s unemployment rate was 10.3 percent in March, about two points higher than the state average.
A new manufacturing center in the northwest Georgia area couldn’t hurt Deal’s re-election bid. Dalton Mayor David Pennington is a potential challenger in the Republican primary — though analysts say he’d face long odds.
“A plant with 2,000 jobs would affect all of northwest Georgia,” said Pennington, who said he’s not involved in the negotiations. “This would be a big benefit for all of northwest Georgia. That’s what homegrown industry does for you.”
Expansion by a U.S. flooring manufacturer would be another sign of stability for the housing market.
Apartments have been the rage for the past few years, but single family construction is also up, though not near the feverish highs last decade. Home sales generally are better across the country, with new home sales up 1.5 percent nationally in March.
Other flooring companies near Dalton have eyed expansions. In the past six months, Calhoun-based Mohawk Industries has acquired three companies: Pergo, the laminate flooring maker; Spano Invest NV, a Belgian maker of chip and melamine board and most notably, tile maker Marazzi Group.
Brian Anderson, who heads the Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce, wouldn’t comment on possible plans for a new plant and cautioned no deal is done until paperwork is signed.
“We’re shortlisted on a number of projects and we have nothing signed,” he said. “I’ve been involved in deals that have blown up on me.”