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Rob Sligh Letters 2005

1: 5/17/05 A letter from Rob thanking Fieinds and Sligh Supporters to Dealers

2: Letter from Rob which was attached to the front glass of the last Grandfather clocks leaving Sligh't Factory

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Sligh Clock
Cross Reference
Pendulum, Weight
Dial, Movement
PDF Download 11mb

Sligh Clock Manufacturing has Ended Forever! (read more)
We still have a fair selection of Sligh Clocks In Stock
Sligh Closing Video Download: sligh5-11newsclip.wmv
3.49mb 320x240 2:53min. Req. Windows media player 10 or higher
"Sligh Furniture is phasing out Holland manufacturing and clock business" Reporting: Brad Edwards (Holland, May 11, 2005, 6:00 pm) A big name in furniture in West Michigan is making massive changes. Courtesy of: WorldNow and WOODTV8 / Grand Rapids, MI

The following is the official statement issued by Sligh Furniture Co.

May 11, 2005

Rob Sligh, Chairman & CEO
Sligh Furniture Co.

Sligh Reinventing Itself

Sligh Furniture Co. is phasing out of its Holland manufacturing and its clock business by the end of 2005. Holland employment will be reduced by about 75 people, primarily in the fall. Sligh headquarters including its research, design, engineering, model making, supply chain management, sales, marketing and customer service will remain in Holland. Sligh furniture will continue to be manufactured in plants in Mexico, Philippines, China and Indonesia for distribution through retailers in North America and other countries.

Production at Sligh’s 1201 Industrial Avenue, Holland, Michigan facility will wrap up in September while clock shipments will continue to the end of the year. Sligh warehousing and distribution will continue operating at the Holland location into 2006. Sligh also operates from a warehousing and distribution facility in North Carolina and intends to establish a similar operation in the western United States later this year.

"Sligh was founded in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1880 as a bedroom furniture manufacturer," said chairman Rob Sligh. "Desks became the company’s principal line of products in the 1930s with the company’s move to Holland. Bedroom furniture was phased out altogether by 1957. When colleges built dormitories for the baby-boomers in the 1960s, dormitory student room furniture became a main line for the company. Sligh purchased Trend Clock Company in 1968. As dormitory student room furniture demand faded in the 1970s, clocks grew rapidly, taking up the slack. Home office furniture has been a company growth engine since the early 1990s. Sligh entered the home entertainment furniture business in 2002."

"Grandfather clocks are not the growth market they once were and the economics are not there for us to continue in that business beyond the end of 2005," said Sligh. "Only about 15% of our furniture is made in Holland. So when we stop producing clocks, we’ll also stop producing furniture in Holland. After 2005, our focus will be on home office, home entertainment furniture and other growing home furniture categories."

"125 years ago wood home furniture production shifted from the eastern United States to the Grand Rapids area. The attraction was lower labor rates, abundant timber and access to the burgeoning west," said Sligh. "By the 1920s, depleted timberlands and rising labor rates in the Grand Rapids area encouraged a shift south to North Carolina and Virginia. A handful of companies, including Sligh, stayed in West Michigan and became known for furniture of the highest quality."

"Wood home furniture is labor intensive," Sligh continued. "That’s why wood home furniture production has always gravitated to lower labor rate regions. In recent years, wood home furniture shifted from manufacturing in the southern United States to manufacturing in countries like China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam and Brazil. Today, most wood home furniture sold in the U.S. is made outside of the U.S."

"These changes are difficult for all of us at Sligh since they’re impacting us at a personal level. We’ve worked together for many years and when we stop some of our operations, it means some of us aren’t going to work together anymore. It’s very difficult to say to some of the really wonderful people who have been part of Sligh that there are no longer jobs available for them, despite trying for the last few years to find a way to keep all Sligh employees working. It’s been tough," Sligh admitted. "All of us have a lot of pride in the high quality of clocks and furniture we’re producing in Holland. We’re determined to make the products we produce this year our best quality ever."

Sligh Furniture to close Holland plant, end local clock manufacturing

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Grand Rapids Press

HOLLAND -- Sligh Furniture Co. today announced it is closing its Holland manufacturing plant and phasing out of the clock business by year's end.

The move will eliminate jobs in Holland for 75 people. Employees were informed this morning.

The 125-year-old furniture company, founded in Grand Rapids, will keep its headquarters in Holland, leaders said. The company also continues to manufacture its desks and other furniture outside the United States, in Mexico, the Philippines, China and Indonesia, company president Rob Sligh said.

Production at Sligh's plant at 1201 Industrial Ave. will wrap up in September while clock shipments will continue until the end of the year, he said.

Warehousing and distribution will continue operating at the Holland site into 2006. The company also operates a warehouse in North Carolina and intends to open a similar operation in the western United States later this year.

"Grandfather clocks are not the growth market they once were and the economics are not there for us to continue in that business beyond the end of 2005," Sligh said in a statement.

The family-owned business has been shifting furniture production out of Holland. The company also closed a manufacturing plant in Zeeland in 2002.

Today, only 15 percent of its furniture is produced in Holland. Only a few years ago, the company had almost 400 workers at the Holland plant.

"Wood home furniture is labor intensive," he said. "That's why wood home furniture production has always gravitated to lower labor rate regions."

© 2005 Grand Rapids Press. Used with permission

Sligh workers sad, not shocked at closing

Thursday, May 12, 2005
By Rob Kirkbride

The Grand Rapids Press

HOLLAND -- In its 125 years, Sligh Furniture Co. has made everything from bicycles to bedroom sets.

Like other companies with such longevity, it has survived by evolving.

This time, the fourth-generation family company will adapt by exiting West Michigan and dropping one of its best-known product lines.

It will stop producing clocks later this year and will ship all its furniture production out of the United States.

Wednesday's announcement by company President Rob Sligh may have surprised many in the area, but it came as no shock to its remaining 75 employees.

It also did not surprise industry experts, who watched the company move production from its West Michigan roots to follow cheap labor in places such as Mexico, Philippines, China and Indonesia.

The move is symptomatic of the U.S. thirst for cheap products pouring out of China and other Asian countries, said Jim Koeman, who worked for Sligh for more than 32 years.

"If I'm angry about anything, I'm angry about the mindset of American people who are willing to settle for less quality for less money simply so we can have more things," said Koeman, who started at Sligh on his 18th birthday. "We are all to blame."

The U.S. residential furniture industry -- which once had a major role in the Grand Rapids area economy -- continues to contract under pressure from low-cost overseas manufacturing, said Harold Rodenhouse, retired president of Hekman and Superior furniture companies.

"All furniture making in the U.S. is in transition because of the opportunity to buy offshore for so much less than the cost to produce it here," he said. "Sligh is one of those traditional old furniture makers that has stuck it out for a long time."

The end of production at Sligh this fall marks the end of another chapter in West Michigan's furniture legacy. In recent years, Baker Furniture Co. moved production from Holland, and the John Widdicomb Co. plant, dating to the Civil War, closed in Grand Rapids.

But unlike those companies, Sligh's history is marked with sudden and dramatic changes management took to stay alive.

Sligh had more than 1,500 employees in 1933 when it moved from Grand Rapids to Holland, opening there with 45 workers.

The company shifted from bedroom suites to desks. Later, it made dorm furniture to supply growing college campuses.

When that market dried up, Sligh picked up Trend Clock Co. in Zeeland for $1, turning it into one of the largest clock makers in the world.

"The company needed a replacement for that volume," Rob Sligh said in describing the transition from dorm furniture to clocks. "The 1970s provided a great growth market that came at the right time."

When the clock market started to slow, Sligh shifted to home-office furniture. Most recently, the company entered the home-entertainment furniture market in 2002.

"There have been lots of twists and turns in our 125-year history," said Sligh, the fourth-generation leader of the firm.

Among those are the shifting of manufacturing from Holland to other countries.

A few years ago, Sligh had more than 400 workers. When the 250,000-square-foot plant and offices are idled in September, the company will employ 23 workers locally in management, engineering, marketing and customer relations.

The hardest part is the loss of longtime employees, Sligh said.

"I've known some of the employees here all my life," he said. "They were here when I was a kid in knickers who came to see my dad. And when I was a teen working in every department in the plant and getting sawdust in my shoes, some of those people are still here.

"The hardest part is talking with our people about a future that doesn't involve them."

Sligh told workers Wednesday morning of the closing.

Fidel Mireles, who has worked there 31 years, said the few weeks leading to the closing would be difficult.

"They treated my family good over the years," he said, noting three sisters, two sisters-in-law, his sons and a few nephews worked at the company during his career.

Sligh also will have to say goodbye to many longtime clock customers and dealers.

One retailer of Sligh clocks in Holland said the decision was a loss for the grandfather clock industry.

"I'm certainly saddened because there was a day when the (Sligh) clock division was the real money maker for them," said John Loomis at Teerman's. "I have sold Sligh and sold it well over the years."

Teerman's carries several models of Sligh grandfather clocks, the highest-priced model costs about $10,000.

Sligh and Howard Miller clocks, also sold at Teerman's, earned a reputation as high-quality grandfather clocks.

Buzz Miller, president of Howard Miller Clock Co. in Zeeland, still sees clock-making as a viable business. "It's a product people want when they see it. But consumers have a lot of choices these days," he said.

The furniture industry has undergone a radical change in the past decade, as manufacturers continue to follow low wages around the globe.

But that does not make it easier for those left behind.

Holland Mayor Al McGeehan was saddened by Sligh's announcement. Rob Sligh called him late Tuesday to break the news.

"Sligh has been a part of Holland for eight decades and here in this part of West Michigan for (more than) a century," McGeehan said.

He asked whether there was anything the city could do to "soften" the impact and possibly keep jobs, but "it sounds like the operations are already in the Philippines and China."

Sligh's news came in the afterglow of the announcement last month that Johnson Controls Inc. planned to add 525 jobs to its Lakewood plant with a new product line.

When told of the news at the Tulip Time Governor's Luncheon, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Sligh's decision was another reason for the state to develop high-tech industries to replace manufacturing.

"This is an example of an evolving world," she said. "West Michigan has been a manufacturing center, but businesses are moving to lower-cost countries.

"It's clear we have to concentrate on growth areas where we can be competitive."

Press staff writer John Tunison contributed to this story.

© 2005 Grand Rapids Press. Used with permission


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