Governor McAuliffe Announces 405 New Jobs And $19.9 Million Investment In Bristol, Va.

BRISTOL, Va. — December 12, 2017 — Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that American Merchant Inc. — a subsidiary of Merchant House International Ltd. (MHI), a Hong Kong-based designer and manufacturer of home textiles, seasonal décor products, and leather shoes — will invest $19.9 million to establish its first U.S. manufacturing operation in the city of Bristol. The new textiles plant will expand the company’s home décor products division into the United States. Virginia successfully competed against Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and South Carolina for the project, which will create 405 new jobs.

“It’s an honor to welcome American Merchant to Southwest Virginia and to our impressive roster of international manufacturing companies, which represent more than $118 billion in direct economic output across the Commonwealth,” said Governor McAuliffe, speaking at the event. “Global companies expanding into the U.S. market continue to choose Virginia as their entry point, demonstrating the advantages of our strategic location, business-friendly environment, and robust talent pipeline. The advanced manufacturing industry, which is one of the pillars of our efforts to build a new Virginia economy, is gaining momentum in the Commonwealth. I congratulate the City of Bristol and thank American Merchant for bringing hundreds of jobs and this significant investment.”

American Merchant is a newly-formed company that will manufacture embroidered hand and bath towels in Bristol, Va. MHI, listed on the Australia Securities Exchange, operates in three segments: home textiles, footwear manufacturing, and footwear trading. The company offers kitchen items, table top products, kitchen rugs, and decorative pillows; as well as footwear products, including: work boots, safety toe boots, waterproof footwear security boots, motorcycle boots, hunting boots, and farm and ranch western boots for men. It also engages in the export trading of its work boots and safety shoes. The company sells its products in the United States, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and China. Merchant House International is bringing textiles back to America due to plentiful cotton supplies, cleaner and more sustainable energy, and lower tax rates than China.

“The addition of over 400 new jobs and the revitalization of a former manufacturing facility is a big win for the City of Bristol, and we welcome American Merchant as Virginia’s new corporate partner,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore. “Our success in attracting international companies, of which more than 700 are located in Virginia, and major advanced manufacturing projects is evidence of our competitiveness on a global level, and the Commonwealth has emerged as a leader in this key industry. We look forward to a long and successful partnership with American Merchant.”

“Virginia has a rich history of manufacturing textiles for hundreds of years,” said Loretta Lee, chairwoman and founder of Merchant House International. “With retailers increasingly challenged by e-commerce competitors, speed-to-market is vital. Therefore, manufacturing and warehousing in Virginia will be a great advantage, and we are delighted to return our industry to this beautiful state. We have been warmly welcomed by state and local officials, and we feel certain we have found the right home for our business. We visited a number of states, but after careful analysis, Virginia finished at the top of every list.”

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the City of Bristol to secure the project for Virginia. Governor McAuliffe approved a $300,000 grant from the Commonwealth Opportunity Fund to assist the city with the project. The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission approved $590,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds. American Merchant is eligible to receive additional grants and state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program and Appalachian Regional Commission, both administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.  Funding services to support the company’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program. 

City of Bristol, Virginia Mayor, Kevin Mumpower stated, “This location has always been a mainstay in our city’s economy, providing good jobs and good wages and acting as a steward for our vision of Bristol, Virginia being a great place to live and work. We therefore are very excited to welcome a new employer to this location and we eagerly anticipate a continuation of this trend. We look forward to the new jobs created for our citizens and the increase in our local tax base. With the soon-to-happen building improvements, machinery and equipment investments, and employee hiring, we are looking forward to seeing this building busy with activity and we are extremely grateful for being the chosen location for this exciting new venture.”

Senator Bill Carrico, a member of the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, said, “Today is a great day for the City of Bristol and Southwest Virginia. Over 400 jobs and nearly $20 million in investment means this project will be a major boost to our economy, as well as show that we have the ability to attract manufacturers from around the world to our region. I can’t think of a better use of Tobacco Commission funds and I look forward to watching this project take off in the coming months.”

“We are grateful that American Merchant has chosen to locate in Bristol, and we welcome them to the Commonwealth’s Fifth District,” said Delegate Israel O’Quinn. “Southwest Virginia has so much to offer prospective employers, and in turn, we are excited about the significant financial investments and job opportunities this new working relationship will bring to our community. This announcement is yet another example of Southwest Virginia’s ability to compete on a global scale when afforded the opportunity.”

Posted December 12, 2017

Source: Office of the Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade