A man, a van and a plan
Published 9:23 pm Thursday, June 18, 2015
Officials cut the ribbon on a new, 357,000-square-foot manufacturing and warehouse facility off Holland Road on Thursday.
Friant & Associates, an office furniture manufacturer based in Oakland, Calif., will ship to its East Coast customers out of the new location in the CenterPoint Intermodal Center.
Standing in the grand building, speaker after speaker used the occasion to pay homage to what small business owners can do for America.
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“It started with one man and a van,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said. “Look what that has come to be. It’s just such a great story.”
Paul Friant founded the business 25 years ago as a furniture repair outfit, using only $1,500 to get started. He was the only employee for several years.
“As the years went on, I found out it takes more than one person to reach the goals I had set,” Friant said during Thursday’s ceremony. “You really do need a team of people.”
About $37 million in existing business will ship from the Suffolk facility, and all of the company’s growth will come through Suffolk as well, Friant said.
About 15 to 17 employees are reporting to work already, he added. Hiring will ramp up almost weekly as equipment is delivered and manufacturing and distribution begin, he said. About 166 jobs are expected in the near future, growing to 250 in the next couple of years. About 1,000 people attended job fairs for Friant, he said.
“None of this would be here today if it weren’t for the vision that Paul had,” said Bob Harbour of CenterPoint Properties.
Johnson said she expects more companies to locate in Suffolk.
“Our business partnerships are really the ones that help us grow,” she said. “We expect more businesses to recognize the strategic advantage of locating in Suffolk. This truly was a team effort.”
“Our experience with Suffolk has been just absolutely perfect from Day One,” he said. “There was never a disappointment or surprise.”
Barry DuVal, president and chief executive officer of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, was at the event to announce a market study that will be completed by the College of William and Mary’s School of Business. The market study will examine how Virginia is competing in the global trade market and how it can improve, DuVal said.
“It’s a world-class facility,” he said of the Friant building. “It will be a big tax boost.”
Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett said after meeting most of the workers that he was pleased that most of them are from Suffolk.
Friant and CenterPoint presented a joint donation of $4,000 to Paul D. Camp Community College’s scholarship funds to interim college President Bill Aiken during the event.