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Flooring firm to bring 2,400 jobs to Georgia

ATLANTA (MCT) -- Engineered Floors will open two new carpet plants that would employ 2,400 people in recession-battered northwest Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal said on Wednesday.

Deal said the company, founded by former Shaw Industries chief Bob Shaw, will invest $450 million in the two plants. One factory would be built in Whitfield County will create 1,000 jobs and another in Murray County would create 1,400 jobs.

The jobs announcement is larger than the Baxter International bio-tech manufacturing campus planned for Social Circle, which would create 1,500 direct jobs, and Caterpillar's tractor manufacturing site in Athens, set to employ another 1,400 people.

"This is especially important to the northwest corner of Georgia," said Deal. "These jobs will go a long way."

There is no timetable yet on the construction of the two plants, but Deal said "there is a sense of urgency." He also couldn't say how much those jobs will pay, though he said salaries are in line with other nearby manufacturing facilities.

Shaw, who retired from his former company in 2005, started Calhoun-based Engineered Floors a few years ago with a focus on the growing apartment sector. The company built its first plant in Calhoun in 2009 and then broke ground on a second in Dalton in 2011.

The flooring industry, like many tied to new home construction, was battered when the home sales and the economy came to a near halt.

Dalton, in Whitfield County, about 90 miles north of downtown Atlanta, is known as the Carpet Capital of the World, and counties throughout the area are dotted with assembly lines devoted to manufacturing various types of textile and solid surface flooring.

But the region gained the distinction of being the metro area that shed the most jobs of any in the nation from June 2011 to June 2012, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The region has lost more than 13,000 jobs from its July 2006 peak, according to federal statistics, and the metro area's unemployment rate was 10.3 percent in March, about two points higher than the state average.

Bob Shaw was not immediately available for comment, but Deal said he began talking with the executive several years ago about an expansion.

He said Shaw told him if lawmakers approved legislation that would repeal the state's sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, he would consider building new plants in Georgia rather than neighboring states. Deal signed the legislation into law in 2012.

"I think the carpet industry is starting to see a revival," Deal said. "And this sends a message to other manufacturers that Georgia is a good place to do manufacturing."