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By: Mark Gabriel

An 82-year-old, family-owned Wilkes County furniture manufacturer with 152 employees is getting financial aid to sharpen its competitive edge.

The North Carolina Division of Workforce Development approved Key City Furniture’s application for a $25,000 federal grant to fund lean manufacturing training at its two Wilkes facilities.

Key City’s niche is custom furniture work, in contrast to furniture manufacturers that create finished inventory for warehousing, says president F.D. Forester. “If it’s coming through the factory, we have a custom order for it.”

Key City ships products throughout the nation and abroad to upper level, price-point retailers, design showrooms, and designers.

This market segment generally doesn’t respond to small economic fluctuations, but recent sales reflect the severity of the recession. “Demand hasn’t dipped—it’s sunk—although special order product had been somewhat immune [to declining demand] until the last 18 months,” says Chris Reavis, vice president of sales and operations for Key City.

Key City plans to be poised to create and deliver its products quicker, easier, and better when economic conditions improve and consumers are able to satisfy pent-up demand and begin purchasing again, states Reavis.

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