By Brandon Martin
Made in America, and specifically in Bassett, were among the take-aways from Bassett Furniture’s Career Fair at the Historical Bassett Train Depot and Event Center.
The community event also kicked off the National Manufacturing Day celebration
Jeb Bassett, chief operating officer and senior vice president of Bassett Furniture Industries, said the primary goal of the event was to connect with high school juniors and seniors to let them know the available local career options.
“The pay rates may surprise them in a positive way. It’s not to take an application today. It’s to take one a few years from now. We hope to capture the contact information and we will keep them informed about what we are doing and where our jobs are posted,” Bassett said.
He explained that some juniors and seniors “want jobs immediately and some want to pursue education. It’s fine either way, because we have something for both,” Bassett said. “If you’d like to come out of high school, we are willing to train you. Our manufacturing is changing.”
After registering, Bassett explained the company’s history and prepared visitors for the self-guided tour.
Booths that highlighted different career paths available at Bassett Furniture were featured on the tour.
Each booth was manned by an employee to explain their respective career.
Casey Franklin and David Kinney are among the members of a 30-person team in the Upholstery Department.
Franklin said she enjoys her career choice so far, plus “you get paid really well.”
Kinney said it takes “about a few months” for newcomers to catch on to the trade, but “it could be closer to a year” before they are comfortable operating without supervision.
Typical days operate like an apprenticeship program, with each worker deferring to others’ experience when performing difficult tasks, he said.
Even with her six years on the job, “I think I learn something new just about every day,” Franklin said, adding that she has gained satisfaction in her work.
From start to finish, Franklin said she can upholster a chair in approximately 15 minutes.
Kinney estimated the entire team could complete 170 chairs a day with normal fabrics or 125 to 150 for thicker fabrics/wood.
“It really just depends on the wood and the type of fabric,” Kinney said, adding that leather is among the most difficult with which to work.
Other booths were manned by employees in careers that included marketing, retail, information technology, product development, production, and customer service.
“We are showcasing how to become a furniture artisan, and we will help you get there,” Bassett said. “If you’d like to explore other areas, we have customer service, which has a little different atmosphere if you prefer that. We have marketing, we have IT, we have our retail stores. Those positions typically take a little more education and experience, but we are also showcasing what we’ve got there.”
Throughout the event, he noted that the company is in a state of change.
“It’s not your grandpa’s furniture factory anymore. We are updating our line to more solid wood and more local upholstery as far as dining,” he said. “Better equipment, new computerized equipment in our factories. New lighting, new roofs, new parking lots — everything to upgrade to attract the worker of the future.”
Bassett said the company recently decided to start investing more in domestic manufacturing and less on the import side of the business. Currently, about 75 percent of the company’s production is domestic, with the remaining 25 percent imported from countries like China.
After manufacturing jobs migrated overseas a few years ago, Bassett said “it’s so pleasing to be bringing this domestically-produced product back here to Bassett. “It’s a simple product, a beautiful product. You’re not going to find any better quality. We are just really excited to be able to do it all right here in Henry County.”
The emphasis on local production completes a round trip that Bassett witnessed in his younger years.
“For me, it’s great,” he said. “I’ve been working here for 40 years, plus high school before that, so I’ve kind of seen it all as far as globalization. It’s really rewarding to me personally to be able to bring this quality of jobs to this area.”
Planning is a priority, according to Bassett, who said the local workforce currently includes 240-250 people.
“That’s two of our manufacturing facilities, a central distribution and logistics trucking facility, and then our corporate headquarters across the street,” Bassett said. “We’ve got to have a (local) workforce that we can count on in the future — 5, 10, 20 years from now. We are trying to set that foundation by reinventing ourselves for local manufacturing.”
For information on other careers available with Bassett Furniture, visit https://www.bassettfurniture.com/.