A company from Florida plans to open a plant inside the Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center and make patio furniture, outdoor Christmas decorations and mahogany lake boats. The company also intends to open an outlet store so customers can buy their furniture products.

During their Monday regular meeting, the McDowell County Commissioners heard an update from Chuck Abernathy, executive director of the McDowell Economic Development Association (MEDA). Abernathy said he was able to announce a company is moving into a 20,000-square-foot section of the Universal building with plans to expand.

Forever Outdoors, based in central Florida, manufactures plastic patio furniture and a variety of related plastic outdoor products such as lawn decorations for Christmas. This company is already moving into the only vacant space left in the Universal building, which is 40,000 square feet. Forever Outdoors will employ around 30 to 40 workers and create new office space and a showroom inside the Universal building, according to Abernathy.

On Wednesday, The McDowell News heard from Joseph Sotanski, owner of Forever Outdoors. He said his products are listed as under Forever Outdoors on Etsy and Amazon.

“On Wayfair, we are under the holiday aisle right now but as soon as we get our furniture on it will be Forever Outdoors,” he said to The McDowell News. “We have our holiday items on all the sites and have been with all of them for two years.”

Sotanski said his operation will make a line of quality outdoor furniture using marine-grade high polyethylene that can withstand all kinds of weather.

“This is really indestructible,” he said to The McDowell News. “You should never have to replace it. We have a full line of outdoor furniture that we will produce starting in September. As of right now, there is no one out there that builds a better piece of outdoor furniture than us.”

Forever Outdoors will use the 20,000-square-foot section now and will expand into the other 20,000-square-foot section by next year.

Sotanski said he expects to be running more than one shift in the plant.

“We will start with one shift and expect to go to two within six months,” he added.

Forever Outdoors will have a factory showroom open to the public where customers will be able to buy the furniture at a discounted price. Sotanski said his company will make the outdoor Christmas decorations and other plastic products here as well.

Furthermore, his company plans to make a line of mahogany lake boats and will need woodworkers for that operation. Forever Outdoors plans to help those interested learn how to build such a vessel, too.

“In January, we will be starting a free class on building a wood kayak, Adirondack guide boat or a canoe,” said Sotanski. “The first class will be open for women and there will be six students in each class. This is a totally free class and we are supplying all the materials and they will from start to finish build their boat and enjoy it for many years.”

He said the employees will work Monday through Thursday, 10 hours a day, so everyone will have three days off.

“We hope to hire people that lost their jobs at Ethan Allen,” said Sotanski. “And first in line will be any disabled veterans, we will have a job for them.”

Forever Outdoors has already hired its first McDowell County person to be a new employee and that person is a former supervisor for the Ethan Allen plant in Old Fort. “He’s eager to hire Ethan Allen workers,” said Abernathy of the company owner.

At the February meeting, the commissioners held a public hearing about the incentive for this company. The local incentive for this project is lowering the lease rate for that space in the Universal building to $1 a square foot, which is usually $2 a square foot. After holding that hearing in February, the commissioners approved the incentive.

After hearing from Abernathy on Monday, the commissioners said they were pleased to see this company open up shop here.

“McDowell County has rebounded with more job opportunities,” said Commission Chairman David Walker.

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