Wal-Mart Deal Invigorates Wadley Furniture Plant

The town of Wadley, Alabama, population 700, doesn’t have a Wal-Mart, but it recently saw 50 jobs added from what you might call the Sam Walton Effect. Another 50 jobs are planned next year, thanks to a nationwide commitment three years ago on Wal-Mart’s part to buy $250 billion in U.S. products that support American jobs over 10 years.

Wadley Holding’s Patio Furniture purchased the town’s Meadowcraft wrought iron furniture company out of bankruptcy in 2009. The plant had been a key source of manufacturing jobs since opening in 1963.

Since coming out of bankruptcy it has expanded and successfully found buyers in chain stores around the country. The plant has grown to 1 million square feet over 55 acres with 195 welding machines and 200 employees.

The Wal-Mart deal was “very important” to the company, according to owner Ken Harbaugh. “They gave us a multi-year commitment so it takes some of the worrying out of every line review and lets us invest more heavily in machinery and people to grow the business.”

Wal-Mart customers, meanwhile, apparently like seeing things like American-made Arlington House wrought iron furniture in the garden section. According to company research, where products are made is second only to price in terms of what draws Wal-Mart customers to making a purchase.

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Getting their products accepted for the Made in America initiative was a “years-long” process, Harbaugh said, but well worth it. 

“When the factory went down a lot of family restaurants and other businesses went down, too, not just in town but in the county, ” he said. “Now we’re looking for more employees, particularly welders.”

Text by Dave Helms

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