Chromcraft owners expected here today

Published 4:08 pm Thursday, February 21, 2019

Sardis industry joining others troubled by annexation talks

By Jeremy Weldon

The ownership team of Chromcraft in Sardis will fly to Memphis today and travel to their Panola County manufacturing facility on a fact-finding trip that is crucial to the future of the industry’s future here.

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At stake are 50 Panola County jobs, and any expansion plans the parent company – Chromcraft Revington Douglas Ind.  with headquarters in California – may have for the area. The industry has a long history in North Mississippi, but the owners are reportedly alarmed at the threat of annexation of the J.C. Sexton Industrial Park by the Town of Sardis.

Wayne Miller, president of Chromcraft, said he and other managers have long pushed for expansion to this area because the company enjoyed many profitable and productive years at their Senatobia location.

The Senatobia facility was shuttered years ago, but when Arts and Crafts Industries bought Chromcraft-Revington in 2015 and formed the new company, the opportunity to bring some of its manufacturing to Sardis was good for management and local workers alike.

According to their website, CRD is comprised of the Chromcraft, Peters-Revington, Douglas and Cochrane furniture brands. CRD is headquartered in Ontario, Calif., with manufacturing, warehouse and distribution operations in Sardis. They have additional warehouse and distribution operations for the Douglas and Cochrane brands in California.

CRD markets residential furniture, primarily in the U.S. and participates at the twice yearly, High Point Furniture Market, where they have a permanent showroom. They are represented by an independent sales force throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“I was excited to be part of an effort to bring light manufacturing back to the area because there wouldn’t be as much of a learning curve for us and we were hoping to capture a portion of our old workforce. We were very happy with Sardis, but I’m the president and not the owner. I had to let them know what was going on because this is quite serious,” Miller said.

“We have the $2.5 million of improvements that were planned on hold while we try to figure out what the city of Sardis has planned,” he said. “As much as I like the Sardis location I know that we have other options and we are flexible.”

Panola Partnership CEO Joe Azar said he heard the news over the weekend and hoped he could speak with the owners before they made any final decision. “I know they have another facility almost as large as this one that is empty. That’s what really worries me. We will meet with them Tuesday and hopefully can convince them to hold off before deciding to close up here while the Sardis alderman are playing games with the livelihoods of the people of Panola County.”

Azar also, reluctantly, verified that United Solutions, Inc., one of the other two industries located in the park, has decided to forego their plans to expand here, and have instructed him to notify the Board of Supervisors and the Mississippi Development Authority that their anticipated $15 million expansion has been moved to another location.

“Because it’s Presidents’ Day and no government offices are open, I will have to wait until tomorrow to let the various offices and entities know what has happened,” Azar said. “I’m heartbroken for the people and the lost jobs at United Solutions, but until the Sardis city board changes its direction, I have no talking points to persuade these industries to continue operations here.”

The other industry, Inca Presswood Pallets, last week essentially told Azar the same thing he heard from United Solutions. “I have to admit, it’s been one of the worst two weeks of my life,” he said. “The Partnership worked so hard, and fought against so many other possible locations to secure the jobs for Panola County, that it’s hard to understand why Sardis is willing to just let these jobs up and leave.”

Speaking of Chromcraft, Miller said the uncertainty of the situation is unfortunate because the local workforce and the tax structure has always been appealing to him. The prospect of additional taxation, however, is a major negative factor that alters the company’s outlook.

And, unlike Miller’s former occupation as a body double for movie star George Clooney, there are no opportunities for retakes.  He lives in New York City and travels here often as Chromcraft makes improvements in Sardis, but said he is perplexed why the Sardis aldermen would even consider an annexation study with such pushback from the industries.

“It sounds to me that they want to cut off their noses to spite their faces,” he said.