The Town of Myrtle officially got an economic boost Tuesday with the ribbon-cutting at the Jackson Catnapper furniture manufacturing plant.
The plant has actually been in production since Dec. 1 but Jackson vice-president Keith Jackson said they had just been too busy getting set up to plan any sort of ceremony.
The company manufactures a wide variety of motion and other furniture as well as home accessories. It got its name from an early line of recliners more than 50 years ago with the motto “taking a quick cat nap on a Sunday afternoon in front of the TV with family.” For now, the Myrtle facility is making sofas.
The company has purchased the former Barclay plant west of town. In addition to the 160,000 square feet of plant space and 19 acres, the company has reportedly acquired 83 more.
Jackson Furniture also acquired the former PeopLoungers factory in Mantachie with its 180,000 square feet and 33 acres in October, where they are making recliners. Workers are producing about 375 pieces per day in Mrytle – 125 each from three lines – and Mantachie is making about 500.
Currently, the Myrtle plant employs 70 and 170 more work at the Mantachie facility. Plans include adding a pre-fabricated office inside, cutting seven loading doors on the east end to facilitate have production move through the building in a straight line and adding more equipment such as conveyors.
“This is just a start; we hope for the plant to be very big,” Jackson said. “We were on a fast agenda and Josh West and Three Rivers were a big help.” West is the industrial recruiter for Union, Pontotoc and Chickasaw Counties and Three Rivers is the Pontotoc-based planning and development district that serves this area.
The Cleveland, Tenn.-based company now has six plants and sells to thousands of dealers across the country. Their furniture can be found at stores in New Albany, Oxford and Tupelo, for instance.
The local manager for the Myrtle and Mantachie plants is Lynn Montgomery of Pontotoc. He said all of the employees are local.
Company founder Ray Jackson got his start in the auto manufacturing business and, not unlike Morris Futorian, saw that he could apply some of the principles to making furniture.
By the 1970’s, Jackson had over 1.3 million square feet of furniture manufacturing space in Tenessee, Mississippi, Texas and Florida according to the company website, and was one of the largest family-owned furniture enterprises in the USA.
“The company started in 1933, 81 years ago,” Jackson said. “I have been doing this 15 years and the Myrtle startup was the easiest in a long time.”
“We’re glad to have them,” Myrtle Mayor Joe Rials said. “The building has been empty four or five years and we know they are going to be a good neighbor.”
Union County Board of Supervisors President Danny Jordan expressed confidence in the company, too, and added, “They probably shouldn’t have any trouble finding people who know how to build furniture around here.”
“It’s a great day for Union County and Union County’s citizens,” Phil Nanney, executive director of the Union County Development Association said. “The building has been empty too many years but now we have a new corporate partner. It was the right mix.”
West said it was remarkable that the deal was put together as quickly as it was. “We engaged them a little in May, and they were making furniture by December,” he said, adding that is like “lightspeed” in industrial development terms. “And we should mention that this is about the last good product building we have in Union County” for industrial growth, he added.
When the purchase was reported this past year, it said Jackson Furniture would invest $2 million in the two plants and employ 250 people in the next three years. Also, the Mississippi Development Authority was giving the company $750,000 for relocation and renovation costs, and worker training valued at more than $1 million. The Appalachian Regional Commission was providing $300,000 for infrastructure improvements, according to the report.
Jackson Furniture builds motion furniture under the Catnapper name and its stationary furniture under the Jackson label. It’s also producing a line of Duck Dynasty-branded furniture with camouflage patterns and outdoor prints.
“We have a comfortable product, a quality product,” Jackson said.