About two months ago, earthwork began on Phase II expansion of Shaw Industries’ Plant T1 in Adairsville.
And that expansion, Shaw Director of International Soft Services Nolan Howell said, is going to be considerably larger than initially envisioned. “In the two-and-a- half years since we opened, we’ve seen some good growth in our business and revised those plans,” he said at Thursday morning’s Eggs and Issues meeting in Adairsville, presented by the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce. “We’re adding 500,000 square feet to that, so it’s going to be about 1.17 million square feet under one roof. It is a massive, massive, beautiful building.”
Once completed, the expanded facility would have a buildout capacity of 20,000 square yards per year. The plant expansion, Howell added, would also add much needed warehouse space for Shaw’s inventory.
“One of the reasons why we made additional expansion space, we added to it, was so that we could store yarn that is used by the Bartow County plants,” Howell said. “We’re going to have about 20-25 million pounds of yarn storage capacity here … the economy’s going real good, some people may have noticed that.”
And with that increase in plant space, naturally, comes an increased demand for workforce.
“We’ve got 320 associates at this Adairsville plant,” Howell said. “During the next three years we’re probably going to double that … I would expect us in 2021 or so to be at 650, and again, I expect those to be net job adds in the county.”
With eight facilities in the county and more than 3,100 local workers, Berkshire Hathaway-owned Shaw Industries is far and away Bartow’s largest employer.
“I think it’s up from 2,600 about three years ago, so we’ve had a lot of growth,” Howell commented.
Whereas the bulk of the flooring industry giant’s operations based out of Gordon and Whitfield counties entail residential division products, Howell said the company’s manufacturing assets in Bartow mostly revolve around commercial division operations, including its brands Shaw Contract, Shaw Hospitality and Patcraft — all three of which, Howell quickly noted, are supported in some facet by T1 operations.
“We also have some pretty significant service brands,” he said. “We have a flooring contractor network called Spectra, and they have offices in most major metropolitan areas, most markets in the United States.”
In 2017 Shaw acquired Chattanooga-based Tricycle, a software company which provides digital marketing and rendering services. “We use them a lot in the commercial business,” Howell said.
And then there’s the Create Center in West Cartersville, which Howell described as “a good add” for Shaw’s commercial portfolio.
“We bring a lot of architects and designers in there for our commercial business. We fly people in to do design collaborations,” Howell said. “It’s a good recruiting tool for us, to get that young design talent and folks in — Cartersville is close enough to the Atlanta job market, where we can attract people.”
With over 30,000 different types of flooring products manufactured and/or distributed each year — producing $6 billion in sales in 2018 alone — Howell said Shaw makes great efforts to “reinvest” in its 22,000 employees across the globe.
“We have 1 million annual training hours for those 22,000 people,” he said “That’s over 50 hours per associate, every year.”
Of the many annual awards the international company receives, Howell said he’s especially proud of Shaw’s recognitions as one of the top employers for recent graduates.
“We work really hard on being relevant to the college students that are coming out today and making sure we’re attractive to that young talent,” he said, “that we keep ourselves fresh and we keep bringing in top talent to the company.”
But Shaw’s long-term market viability may not be a matter of simply reaching out to college students. As evidenced by the results of the company’s participation in the Great Promise Partnership, the flooring titan’s future could rest in the hands of today’s high schoolers.
“It’s something we started in 2015 and I think we first did it up in Dalton, but we’ve rolled it out company-wide,” Howell said. “We have certain students in certain situations where we partner with them … it’s not really a work-release program, but it’s similar to that.”
To date, Howell said Shaw has put 25 to 30 students through the program, including two from Adairsville.
“They’ve got to be 16 years old and on a proper trajectory to graduate from high school, but we also let them come in and work in our factory a certain number of hours per day,” he said. “It’s a paid position, it’s actually paid quite well, and we try to balance work and school and kind of encourage these kids to stay engaged and help them see where their future can take them.”
The program has produced obvious financial rewards for students, Howell said, but the results also demonstrate beneficial outcomes on academic achievement. Those involved in the Great Promise Partnership, he said, tend to have improved attendance and better grades than their peers.
“We also get a chance to recruit some young folks and talk about what it’s like to work in our factories,” he said, “and get some access to people they might otherwise not know and get them into our organization.”
The company, Howell said, is also reaching out to teens via a litany of STEM-related activities and educational programs. That includes Cartersville High’s “Manufacturing Day” presentations, where Shaw sent several of its engineers to discuss career possibilities with students.
“We talked about the types of jobs and roles we have in our manufacturing facilities, the kinds of things we look for in candidates for those jobs and what they can do, to try to make themselves better prepared for that,” he said.
Howell — who, in addition to his work at Plant T1, has also worked on the ground floor of Shaw’s operations in China and Scotland — closed out the presentation with a discussion of Shaw’s long-term plans for environmental sustainability.
Over the last six to seven years, he said the company has reduced its energy intensity by 25 percent, decreased its emissions by 32 percent and lowered its water usage by 35 percent.
“We track our landfill waste by facility, and we are about to be at a point where the only landfill waste we have coming out of [Adairsville’s plant] is break room waste or municipal waste,” he said. “We have a corporate goal by 2030 to have actually nothing coming out of our manufacturing facilities or operations, anywhere, going to the landfill.”