La-Z-Boy chooses Monroe over Toledo for new HQWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
After considering a move to Toledo, La-Z-Boy Inc. will stay in Monroe.
The company recently finalized the purchase of land in Monroe to build a new corporate headquarters for its 500 employees, solidifying the company’s decision to stay in the community where it was founded in 1927.
Kurt Darrow, La-Z-Boy chairman, president and CEO, signed the closing documents for the purchase of 120 acres from the Monroe-based Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), a Catholic order of nuns.
Darrow and Monroe Mayor Robert Clark made a joint keynote presentation to the company’s decision to stay in Monroe at the 2013 General Assembly of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) on Jan. 30 in Perrysburg.
The land purchase, along with a combination of Michigan state, county and local tax incentives and grants paved the way for La-Z-Boy to begin the final design of the building and site, they said.
The company’ a goal is to break ground and beginning construction this spring and to move into the new headquarters by late 2014 or early 2015, Darrow said.
“We are delighted to have finalized the purchase of land from the IHM Sisters and are excited about moving forward with the final design and construction of our new world headquarters,” Darrow said. “When completed, this landmark facility will provide an inspiring, innovative and collaborative work environment for our employees and highlight our evolving image as a worldwide leader in our industry.”
Last spring, the company began considering whether to renovate its existing facility, a former furniture factory and retail store on Telegraph Road, or build a new headquarters, Darrow said. The company was willing to consider moving out of Monroe and even Michigan to build a new home, he said.
The company considered building near its largest manufacturing facility in Tennessee, in Chicago and even in Toledo, Darrow said. He said the company inquired about some possible sites in Toledo and that Ohio was very aggressive in pursuing the company’s move there.
He indicated that about 70 percent of the company’s workforce lives in Monroe County, but 15 percent is from the Toledo area. Employee commuting patterns were mapped and sites accessible by current employees were considered.
The company seriously considered a site on the river in Downtown Toledo before the site in Monroe became an option, Darrow said.
“We’re a Monroe company and we’re grateful to be staying in Monroe,” said Darrow, who is a Michigan native and has lived in the community for 37 years.
“My faith in the process was renewed. It was a good business decision for us to stay in Monroe,” he said.
La-Z-Boy consulted with two Ohio companies, The Collaborative Inc. of Toledo and Rudolph|Libbe Inc. of Walbridge, about possible sites. Darrow said those companies continue to be involved in the planning, design and building of the new facility.
Rudolph/Libbe is managing the design process and construction while The Collaborative will serve as architect, said Scott Libbe, executive vice president of Rudolph/Libbe.
At the TMACOG meeting, Darrow said he was at a board meeting for a local hospital when one of the IHM sisters, a fellow board member asked him if he knew of anyone interested in purchasing their property — having no idea La-Z-Boy was looking for just such a property.
“Partnering with La-Z-Boy, a local enterprise committed to building a sustainable culture within their company and industry, demonstrates IHM’s commitment to implement our vision in partnership with others,” said IHM President Mary Jane Herb at the closing.
The restoration and preservation of the oak savanna on the property as well as preservation of green space in the city of Monroe are shared goals of IHM and La-Z-Boy, according to both sources.
“I expect there will be other opportunities for synergy between IHM and La-Z-Boy because we are both endeavoring to protect the planet and leave it a better place for future generations,” Herb said.
The new building design concept, featuring flexible space and open areas, is reflective of La-Z-Boy as a company, Darrow said. The company will retain 30 of the 120 acres in their natural state, he said.
The purchase was a complicated process since the IHM property was located in the City of Monroe and Frenchtown Township, Clark said. The process involved city, township, county and state officials.
Even Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder became involved when he had lunch with Darrow to discuss the project and offer his support of it.
The entire project and the company’s decision to stay in Monroe became official and public at a Dec. 19 planning commission meeting when the zoning change was approved.
“It all worked out in time. I couldn’t imagine the City of Monroe without La-Z-Boy,” Clark said.
Darrow said the company intends to sell its existing property on Telegraph Road to a retail entity for redevelopment.
La-Z-Boy marked 85 years in business in 2012, recording $1.23 billion in sales in 2012 with 320 furniture galleries and five manufacturing plants in the U.S. The company has a partnership to open stores in China and opened a plant in Mexico in 2009.
Darrow said La-Z-Boy’s product line has evolved with innovation and style to provide furniture for every room in the house and now offers home decorating services through its retail outlets. The business also incorporated actress Brooke Shields into its advertising
“The future looks bright for us and our strategy is sound. We’re going to continue making investments in Michigan,” Darrow said.