Every story has a beginning. A decision was made a half century ago to build a new manufacturing plant in Neosho, one that would build La-Z-Boy chairs. This week, the story continues as La-Z-Boy Midwest celebrated 50 years, a major milestone for any company.
"In 1969, our town, our community was chosen to be Plant 05 for the La-Z-Boy family," Bill Snow,
Vice-President of La-Z-Boy Midwest said to those who gathered to celebrate. "That's where our story begins."
Construction of the facility began in May 1969 and in March 1970, the first four people were hired.
In January 1971, the original 180,000 square feet production facility began operation. Over the years, the plant has grown.
"Currently, we have 542,000 square feet," Snow said. "That's equivalent to 12.4 acres. We sit on 54 acres here in the Neosho community. Our employees have achieved 10,500,000 hours without a lost work day injury and that's a milestone that started in 2012."
Snow noted that the current workforce is 755 employees but plans are in the works to increase that to 825. La-Z-Boy Midwest in Neosho is currently producing between 11 and 12 thousand units.
They recently made their 18 millionth chair, which was unveiled during the celebration.
"We're also very proud that our facility is a zero-waste to the landfill operation."
The La-Z-Boy company was founded by two cousins, Edwin Shoemaker and Edward Knabusch in 1927. The next year, they introduced their now famous reclining slat chair.
"Ninety two years later, our company manufactures and sells a wide variety of products to compliment the home. Our values support our vision. La-Z-Boy enriches people's lives by transforming houses into homes."
A large crowd of current employees, retirees, community members and elected officials gathered to participate in the celebration. United States 7th District Congressman Billy Long, 160th Missouri State Representative Ben Baker, Presiding Newton County Commissioner and former state representative Bill Reiboldt, District 1 Commissioner Alan Cook, District 2 Commissioner Jim Jackson, Crowder College President Dr. Glenn Coltharp, Neosho Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jim Cummins, Neosho interim City Manager and Chief of Police David Kennedy, Mayor William Doubek, Kurt Darrow, Chairman/President/CEO La-Z-Boy Incorporated, Darrell Edwards, Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer at La-Z-Boy Incorporated, Mike Kelley, representing State Senator Bill White and Governor Mike Parson, members of the business community and the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce.
Lewis Cole, original HR for La-Z-Boy Midwest, now retired was also present.
"This is a major celebration," Darrow said. "We're here to celebrate two major milestones. One is to celebrate fifty years and the other is to announce at the beginning of calendar year 2020, we're going to make a major investment of 20-25 million dollars in this facility, in this town. It was an easy decision for us because the people at this plant at Neosho have been steadfast in doing quality work and being committed to the company and the community. It will look like a brand-new plant when we're done. Not only do we believe in this community and the people here in Neosho, we also have made a commitment to keep as much of the work here in the United States as possible."
Employees and retirees were treated to a lunch. There were also numerous prizes given away to employees during the event.
La-Z-Boy Midwest is located at 4301 Howard Bush Drive in Neosho. "Build Something Amazing" is the newest slogan.
"La-Z-Boy is one of our major employers," Baker said. "It is such an integral part of our community."