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Published: Friday, 8/17/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

La-Z-Boy ponders moving HQ

Furniture maker assessing feasibility of leaving Monroe


MONROE -- La-Z-Boy Inc., the maker of furniture that includes its famed recliner chair, said Thursday it is in the market for a new world headquarters. The company said it would prefer to remain in Monroe but is open to relocating elsewhere in southeast Michigan or northwest Ohio.

The furniture maker has always had its headquarters in Monroe since the day it was founded in 1927 by cousins Edward Knabusch and Edwin Shoemaker.

In a statement, the company said it has considered a number of options for a headquarters -- which is home to 500 employees -- and has narrowed its choices to Monroe and other unspecified sites in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio.

La-Z-Boy said it is assessing the feasibility, cost, and timetable of each option.

Jim McDevitt, supervisor of Michigan's Frenchtown Township, which along with the city of Monroe is home to La-Z-Boy's headquarters, said Monroe-area officials have been in talks with the furniture maker about a new headquarters building for three months.

Michigan's economic development team, headed by Gov. Rick Snyder, includes officials from Monroe County, the city of Monroe, Frenchtown Township, and the Monroe County Industrial Development Corp., Mr. McDevitt said.

"We've been working with them to get some them some tax breaks. … It looks pretty good to keep them in Michigan. They have [500] jobs here and we want to keep them here," Mr. McDevitt said. "La-Z-Boy was founded in Monroe and has always been in Monroe. We'd definitely hate to lose them and those jobs. That's why we've taken steps to work with them."

The Frenchtown Township supervisor said he was told the state of Ohio had offered the company incentives to move to northwest Ohio.

Officials of northwest Ohio's Regional Growth Partnership could not be reached for comment.

Apparently the company has also received bids from much farther away.

"There was even an offer from China to move there," Mr. McDevitt said.

However, in the company's statement, La-Z-Boy Chief Executive Officer Kurt Darrow said the company has taken steps that indicate its preference is to remain in Monroe.

La-Z-Boy said it has been focused on a land purchase agreement with the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is based in Monroe.

A proposed concept would involve acquiring and developing a significant tract of land on the IHM's Monroe campus.

The furniture maker said it wants to turn the land into a headquarters campus, with a LEED-certified building accompanied by a significant amount of green space that includes a nearby endangered oak savannah ecosystem.

"The World Headquarters project is the start of an exciting new chapter for La-Z-Boy, and we are enthused about our potential purchase agreement with the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and with the possibility of staying in Monroe," Mr. Darrow said.

However, "This project would be a large undertaking for La-Z-Boy and will only be feasible in Michigan with financial support and assistance from the state of Michigan, Monroe County, the city of Monroe, Frenchtown Township, and others," Mr. Darrow added.

La-Z-Boy said it has not determined what it would do with its old headquarters if it built a new one. But the release added that the company would seek options for redeveloping the facility and grounds in a way to benefit Monroe.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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