Friant excited about Suffolk

Published 7:55 pm Saturday, November 29, 2014

The owner of Friant and Associates, a furniture manufacturer that is building a new manufacturing and distribution center in Suffolk, said proximity to the port was one of the key reasons the company chose Suffolk for its expansion.

Paul Friant said the company started looking for a presence on the East Coast to develop stronger relationships with customers here, and also for logistical purposes.

“We’re creating a presence for a stronger relationship,” he said. “We’re over capacity on the West Coast, and we decided it made more sense to spread out.”

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Friant started in the 1980s as a refurbishing company, according to Jill Lindenbaum, a public relations freelancer who works for Friant. It slowly evolved into a manufacturing company that offers a full line of office furniture, including seating and storage.

“It really has always maintained a very specific focus in that office furniture market,” Lindenbaum said. “They are interested in delivering the best quality product for a really fair price.”

Friant said the company, which is headquartered in Oakland, Calif., is somewhat “backwards” in that it started on the West Coast.

“If you look at all the major manufacturers, most people have started on the East Coast,” he said.

While looking for its new East Coast location, Friant said, the company needed something close to the port and with support available.

“We needed a location that the state was able to support us in hiring,” Friant said. “The other thing was being close to the port, because we do bring in a lot of raw materials.”

The Virginia Job Investment Program will provide funds and services to help with the company’s employee training. The company received sizable grants from the city, the state and the Port of Virginia.

Construction is already under way at the location in the CenterPoint Intermodal Center. It is the third building in CenterPoint and sits directly behind the Ace Warehouse.

The facility will be about 350,000 square feet. Friant said pay will begin at about $14 an hour, and the 166 available jobs will include designers, wood shop workers and other fabricators as well as managers.

Friant said the company is excited about the opportunity.

“We believe that we’ll do very well on the East Coast,” he said.