Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Town

Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Town

by Beth Macy


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The instant New York Times bestseller about one man's battle to save hundreds of jobs by demonstrating the greatness of American business.

The Bassett Furniture Company was once the world's biggest wood furniture manufacturer. Run by the same powerful Virginia family for generations, it was also the center of life in Bassett, Virginia. But beginning in the 1980s, the first waves of Asian competition hit, and ultimately Bassett was forced to send its production overseas.

One man fought back: John Bassett III, a shrewd and determined third-generation factory man, now chairman of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co, which employs more than 700 Virginians and has sales of more than $90 million. In FACTORY MAN, Beth Macy brings to life Bassett's deeply personal furniture and family story, along with a host of characters from an industry that was as cutthroat as it was colorful. As she shows how he uses legal maneuvers, factory efficiencies, and sheer grit and cunning to save hundreds of jobs, she also reveals the truth about modern industry in America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316231411
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 06/09/2015
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 99,662
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Beth Macy won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, a joint project of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard for "her extraordinary reporting and narrative skills" and her work on Factory Man. The daughter of a factory worker, she writes about outsiders and underdogs. Her articles have appeared in national magazines and the Roanoke Times, where her reporting has won more than a dozen national awards, including a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard. She lives in Roanoke, Virginia.

Table of Contents

Family Tree: A Virginia Furniture Dynasty xvi

Prologue: The Dusty Road to Dalian 3

Part I

Chapter 1 The Tipoff 9

Chapter 2 The Original Outsourcer 20

Chapter 3 The Town the Daddy Rabbits Built 36

Chapter 4 Hilltop Hierarchy 47

Part II

Chapter 5 The Cousin Company 69

Chapter 6 Company Man 82

Chapter 7 Lineage and Love 94

Part III

Chapter 8 Navigating the New Landscape 105

Chapter 9 Sweet Ole Bob (SOB) 115

Chapter 10 The Mount Airy Ploy 135

Chapter 11 The Family Elbow 145

Part IV

Chapter 12 Schooling the Chinese 159

Chapter 13 Bird-Doggin' the Backwaters 172

Chapter 14 Selling the Masses 184

Part V

Chapter 15 The Storm Before the Tsunami 201

Chapter 16 Trouble in the 'Ville 214

Chapter 17 Stretching Out the Snake 232

Chapter 18 The Dalian Dance Card 250

Part VI

Chapter 19 Gathering the Troops 269

Chapter 20 Mr. Bassett Goes to Washington 286

Chapter 21 Factory Requiem 297

Part VII

Chapter 22 Million-Dollar Backlash 309

Chapter 23 Copper Wires and Pink Slips 322

Chapter 24 Shakedown Street 338


Chapter 25 Mud Turtle 367

Chapter 26 The Replacements 375

Chapter 27 "Sheila, Get Me the Governor!" 389

Epilogue: The Smith River Twitch 401

Acknowledgments 411

Notes 415

Index 443

Reading Group Guide 453

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Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Town 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story's admirably objective and really well reported. It tells about the people whose lives were enriched by globalization or crushed by it. And her main character is a terrific. A very good story that happens to be true.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This exciting and informational novel is a must read! Beth Macy brings you behind the scenes of furniture town that has been hit hard by global imports. By no means is this a cut and dry underdog story but one with ups and downs that will keep you glued to the pages. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just finished FACTORY MAN -- a very interesting and enlightening story -- I love her style -- this is not some dull dry business book! very entertaining
roanokereader More than 1 year ago
Allow yourself some quiet, open time to read "Factory Man." To tackle it while swatting at distractions will be far too frustrating, and you're likely to hurt the feelings of those close to you. As unlikely as this might sound, it's an irresistible, sassy take on globalization, as seen from laid-off factory workers and their bosses. Told with deep, observant insight, Macy trumps pundits long-held, if flawed, view that the offshoring of American manufacturing isn't really so bad. It's one of those conventional wisdoms most of us had accepted, even when our subconsciousnesses were blinking a red alert. Macy's powerful reporting and narrative reawaken our common sense, as well as our sense of decency.
Kakki More than 1 year ago
FACTORY MAN is a fascinating read by a masterful storyteller. Using the first person, Beth Macy practically invites the reader to "Have a seat while I tell you a story." And tell a story she does, using a conversational tone and anecdotes backed by copious research to captivate the reader. Only this is no fairy tale; it is the story of a family who created a town and an industry which helped thousands of people gain entry into middle America, a position now precarious, if not gone entirely, because the jobs that sustained them have been lost as industries shut their doors and send the jobs overseas. Ms. Macy makes no pretense of presenting a scholarly treatise on the pros and cons of globalization. Rather, she simply focuses on real people who built an industry, on those who have suffered the devastating results of lost jobs, and on one member of that family, imperfect though he may be, who fought to save a factory and the jobs of its workers. The obvious conclusion is that, given an even playing field, the American worker can compete, and the reader is left wondering, "Why can't we just play fair?"
Martin-Dean More than 1 year ago
When you hear about the need for jobs in America, and, the rising jobless rate, you can't help but appreciate this story. John D.Bassett III was determined to save Vaughan Bassett, 700 factory jobs, and ultimately the town of Galax in the hills of Virginia. Beth Macy did her ground work and research in order to craft her story this great heroic maneuver by JDB III to fight the odds, to do what    he saw as the best way to compete with the ever growing invasion of overseas furniture manufacturers. He rolled up his sleeves and starting swinging in a battle he knew would create a shake up in the furniture industry which he and his family has played a major roll in for decades. Beth Macy includes key characters you really will enjoy knowing while reading "Factory Man".  Because of this heroic maneuver, Vaughan Bassett has become the largest domestic furniture manufacturer in America  at the same time that hundreds, if not thousands of domestic manufacturers have closed down because they failed to compete with the importers of wood furniture. Beth Macy's "Factory Man" is truly a fabulous read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing story of small town America and why it is important to do the right thing and fight for the things that matter-- Beth Macy tells the story of small town America and one mans journey to keep his community alive. Her description and detail bring the characters to life in such a way that you feel as though you're submerged in the heart of the mountain town with them where the story takes place. John Bassett, III, around which the story takes place is a fiercely loyal, charmingly witty and driven man. His fight for fairness and equality and devotion to his community-- the people that work in his factory-- are profound and captivating. An absolute must read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading so many reviews, I felt like I'd already read the first two chapters of the book! This, however, is not the fault of the author, but of too much information already "out there" about the book's contents. But by the third chapter, I was on a ride, through the course of the history of both the American furniture market and the Bassett-Vaughn empire. Though the reporting includes much about global competition and U.S. economic policy, this book was first and foremost a fabulous tale about an incredible family. You'll love the characters, you'll hate the characters, and you will want to read more Beth Macy when you're done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fantastic book. Janet Maslin compared Beth Macy's first book "Factory Man" to "Seabiscuit," which launched Laura Hillenbrand's career. I concur. The clever and courageous tactics used by John Bassett to keep Vaughan-Bassett's factories open makes for entertaining and inspirational reading. This book should be required reading at every business school in America. The best book about business -- and the American spirit -- that I have read in years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pull up a comfortable chair (American-made, if you can find one) and prepare to be hooked on this compelling work by Beth Macy. The subject is, of all things, globalization in the furniture industry. What sets "Factory Man" apart is Macy's exceptional, relentless reporting, which produces the very finest storytelling. Prepare to lean the backstory on the Bassett furniture-making family and its business practices, as well as the effects on their loyal factory workers. But above all, this is a story of survival.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A cross among "Gone With The Wind", "Peyton Place" and "Economics 201"-"Factory Man" has it all! Incredible insight about world globalization in the furniture manufacturing businss is revealed in depth in this outstanding book. Having grown up in Bassett, VA and knowing most of the characters in the book, Beth Macy has done her homework and tells it like it is about the people surrounding John Bassett III and what lead to his fight against China's dumping of below cost furniture into America. Once you start reading, you will not want to put down the book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I won't be reading any of her other books, way to much filler to make the book longer than nessary. What could have been a great read was very boring and enduring
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best thing for me about this book was the view of how trade litigation really works; how damage is done to industries by "dumping"practices and how seductive they are; and how expensive, frustrating and ultimately futile the enforcement procedures were. The social settings and family wars were also interesting. Although the writing is a little uneven, I enjoyed the book.
Davids3 More than 1 year ago
Factory Man is poorly written and edited such that it jumps around in time and among the key figures, making it hard to follow at times.  Also, it is terribly wordy and has numerous anecdotes that don't seem to relate to the story but the author found them interesting.  If you can wade through the verbiage it is a pretty interesting story.   
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Definitely recommend. Well researched, provided broad coverage a vast cast of characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A compelling story of how globalization decimated the American furniture industry; telling of its effects in a southern company town and the complex company man who didn't give up when it looked like he was beat. One can't help wishing that American manufacturing had a few more advocates like John Bassett. The writing could have used a little more editing, but the story is so good you don't really notice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read includes- family saga, business and politics all in one
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beth Macy has chronicled the rise and fall of the furniture industry by telling the Bassett story in Virginia - both the man and the town. The story itself is a fascinating tale of family intrigue, small town politics, social elitism, loyalty, betrayal, and commitment to excellence. This is also the best description I have read of what has happened to manufacturing in the last 30 years throughout the United States. I highly recommend this to anyone who still shops at Wal-Mart.
Marlisa More than 1 year ago
Easy reading, goes fast, and could not put it down. I must include that I come from a furniture/wood family so I am biased.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this book. Non-fiction and reads like fiction. An accurate account, small town history and main reason for loss of jobs in America. Great characters as well. Should become a movie!