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Ashley expands Whitehall plant

The Blair Press-Taylor of Blair, Wisconsin

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WHITEHALL- Dignitaries from throughout western Wisconsin came to Ashley Furniture's Whitehall plant on Monday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for an 80,000 square foot expansion.

The expansion is to help grow the company's line of recliners and other "motion' furniture.

Todd Wanek, president and CEO of Ashley said "Since 2012, there has been a 48 percent increase in production units - and I want to thank everyone for that at the Whitehall plant... We've added 6 production lines at this plant since 2012... We've increased our employment at this facility by 24 percent.

Wanek noted that last week the company had a great honor - opening its 500th Ashley Furniture home store in the United States.

"We are the number one furniture retailer in the United States and we are the number one furniture manufacturer in the United States and in the world... We're very proud of that fact and proud of the organization that Ashley is..."

Whitehall Mayor Rod Moen said "jobs are the lifeblood of a community. Without jobs, we cannot grow."

He credited Ashley with helping the community have nearly all of its storefronts full.

'Our community will continue to welcome those who provide jobs and also those people who will fill those jobs.... Well done, Ashley, well done.

County Board Chairman Ernie Void said: "It's a great day to be here... Ashley Furniture is a major employer in Trempealeau county Thanks to the loyal workers of Ashley Furniture and thanks again to Todd and Ron Wanek.

Ashley Furniture Chairman Ron Wanek said "Ashley came through some pretty tough times here, as you know, the great recession and all of our people have done wonderful and looking at how we can reduce costs... our lean programs they have always worked very hard so that we can be the low-cost provider in the market and satisfy our customer," Ron Wanek said. "In the end of the day the United States is a customer-driven society of free-market capitalism - we have to give the customer what they want... It's all about attitude...the biggest thing we look for is attitude. If you've got the right attitude, things will work. If you have a wrong attitude in a community, that doesn't work.

"We especially appreciate Gov. (Scott) Walker's efforts in making Wisconsin open for business again, because without the changes that have happened here in Wisconsin, I doubt if this addition would have been done...," Ron Wanek said.

Speaking at the event, Gov. Walker said on his last visit to China, employees of Ashley Furniture there pointed out on a wall map where they want to have more locations to sell Ashley Furniture in China.

"(Ashley) just has a tremendously positive economic impact," Walker said! in an interview with the Blair Press. "Plus as a company... it's growing in the global markets and as they add even in China - that's going to mean more back office (workers) here so it just keeps them healthy and | growing.

"We're proud of Ashley..." Walker told the crowd of dignitaries and; many Ashley employees present. "We're proud of itobviously here in Trem-ipealeau County and in Whitehall and Arcadia and Independence, but we're I proud of it statewide and we !want to continue to help I make Ashley a world-class; leader when it comes to manufacturing and when it j comes to some of the best j furniture and living ware any where in the world."

He also credited not only i Ron Wanek for his vision in creating Ashley Furniture, | but its employees.

"... I've got to say first and foremost... the reason! this is all possible, despite [ some of the challenges that ' were mentioned, is because of all of you - because of the quality of the workforce. That's one of the things that not only makes Ashley spectacular - that's one of the things that makes us great when it comes to manufacturing," Walker said.

He added that Wisconsin has one of the highest percentages of manufacturing as a percentage of its economy. He noted that since 2012, Ashley has added 100 new jobs here, and 300 in Wisconsin.

"Manufacturing is rolling in our state and it's the quality of our workforce that's driving it... From December of 2012 to December of 2013, we had the second most new - new -manufacturing jobs in the country. Michigan is the only state that had a few more than us That's on top of a state that's already heavily dependent on manufacturing and agriculture. Yet we're doing it - and it's because of companies like Ashley leading the way making that investment both in physical infrastructure and like this brand new facility."

Gov. Walker said the state is doing its part as well - the manufacturing production tax credit is a big deal -by 2016 it will wipe out almost all of their taxable liability for production in the state of Wisconsin. That means the money they otherwise send to the state government they can invest in new equipment, new lines

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Original Publication Date: March 13, 2014

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