Yet another Chinese luxury vinyl tile producer is setting up shop in northwest Georgia, joining a rush of producers looking to build local factories during a time of uncertainty around flooring tariffs.
Creative Flooring Solutions, or CFL, was started by Europeans in Shanghai in 2004, and now calls claims to be the largest exporter of flooring from China.
It will add 300 jobs in Gordon County to complement its 3,500 employees at three global factories, including its main plant south of Shanghai in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, as well as Vietnam and Taiwan factories that both came on line in May 2019 — just after the Trump administration had raised tariffs on Chinese imports to 25 percent.
The investment of $70 million in Calhoun nearly matches the combined $73 million committed by the three other Chinese flooring firms that have announced investments in the region since December. Including CFL, the job total of the four investments is up to 873.
The procession seemed to begin just after the Trump administration’s November exclusion of tariffs on luxury vinyl tile, putting Chinese-made flooring at the same 5.3 percent rate as other countries at least through this August.
CFL leaders in August 2018 testified before the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative against the tariffs on Chinese-made LVT, and they also explicitly noted that their new ex-China factories were aimed at blunting the impact of the tariffs.
Executives made no mention of the trade war in announcing the investment via a news release from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office, but they did note the expected convenience of working with partners and distributors from a U.S. base.
“Being able to supply products produced in the United States will allow us not only to sustain our leadership position in product design and product innovation but also create a platform allowing second-to-none service through reduced delivery times,” said Tom Van Poyer, CFL owner and CEO.
The initial newly constructed factory will span 252,000 square feet feet, with a plan to double that in a future expansion.
The investment shows the complexity of the global economy and trade policy: Early in the Trump presidency, the Peterson Institute of International Economics calculated that Gordon, Whitfield, Murray, Walker and Catoosa counties were among those in the U.S. with the most jobs to lose from a full-on trade war.
Now, it seems that the uncertainty is bringing some of those positions back, even as U.S.-China relations deteriorate.