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Culp opening Chinese facility

With its announcement earlier this month of a manufacturing/distribution facility in China, Culp Inc. becomes the largest American upholstery/decorative fabric producer to initiate a formal Chinese business activity.

The company has leased a 65,000-square-foot manufacturing/distribution facility near Shanghai that will offer "value-added finishing, fabric and cut-and-sew packages," said Rob Culp III, chairman and ceo. "We are very excited about the potential growth opportunity that our China platform represents. This strategic initiative will enable us to integrate Chinese-sourced goods with our domestic line and allow us to expand our business with middle to higher-end fabrics."

In the first two years under present capacity, Culp expects to produce 150,000 yards of fabric a week, representing $25 million in annual sales. "Our intent is not to settle for that; we definitely will grow that business," said Ken Ludwig, senior vp, human resources.

Another important piece of the new facility is the ability for Culp to develop low-cost yarns and other raw material for its U.S. manufacturing plants. As Ludwig explained "there is globalization of all yarns and we will take advantage of this global technology and availability."

Culp has assigned long-time company executive Michael Messer as vp, general manager of the China operations and he will be relocating to the Shanghai area. He previously served as vp, manufacturing for the Culp Decorative Fabrics division.

Thomas Sibley, Jr. has been named product manager and will serve as the liaison between the company's design group and its customers as well as coordinating sales of the Chinese-sourced product through Culp's existing sales force. He was a regional sales manager for the company's contract fabrics.

Neither will be replaced per se, said Ludwig. Rodney Smith will assume much of Messer's duties, while Sibley's responsibilities will be divided among current executives.

Culp has created a separate U.S.-based design group dedicated to the fabric produced in China under the direction of Donna Weber, who reports to Liam Waters, design and creative director for Culp Decorative Fabrics, the jacquard/dobby segment of the company. She had been head design director under Waters.

Culp sees the China activity "as absolutely giving us an opportunity for global distribution in whatever form our customers want and need," said Ludwig.

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