Editorial: Looming closing of Brown Industries is a big blow to the community

The story of how James Brown's eponymous company got off the ground captures the entrepreneurial spirit of Dalton in the mid-1900s.

The carpet industry was beginning to take off, spurred by a number of local businessmen who saw Dalton's future as "The Carpet Capital of the World." As mechanization allowed the carpet industry to roar, ancillary companies that would provide products and services to the fledgling carpet companies began to pop up.

According to company lore, Brown, a printing salesman in Dalton, had a customer who "complained that the only way to show samples was to carry a trunk load of carpet to cities like Atlanta, New York and Chicago." That led Brown to solve his customer's problem. With $200, he bought wood, glue and scissors to create the first carpet sample device -- inventing the flooring sample business in 1954.

Through the years, Brown Industries grew into a major business with seven operating divisions and more than 1 million square feet of manufacturing space, employing thousands in its 60-plus-year history.

When news broke Monday that Brown Industries would permanently close this fall, we were saddened.

"After serving the flooring and home improvement industries for more than 60 years, Brown Industries is permanently closing its doors," said J. Darren Wilcox, co-CEO and president of Brown Industries, in a statement. "The company will be closing its plant facilities and terminating the employment of its associates in Dalton, Georgia, as of Oct. 1, 2021, as it completes obligations to its customers and business partners. These actions were necessitated due to unforeseen business circumstances."

The company's closing will result in 433 job losses, according to the Georgia Department of Labor's business layoff/closure listing.

"Brown Industries is making every effort to connect their valued associates with the many available jobs in Northwest Georgia and appreciates the support of our community," said Wilcox.

Dalton is losing one of its longest-running businesses, which has done wonders for our community, and its employees are losing their livelihood. We hope these employees are able to land on their feet during these turbulent times.

Brown Industries has been a major source of philanthropy in the community, from sponsoring the United Way's Make-A-Difference Day to its employees serving on the boards of nonprofits. While the Brown Industries name will eventually fade from the company's buildings across Dalton, its legacy will remain with the Dalton Parks and Recreation Center's James Brown Park, Dalton State College's James E. Brown Center, the Brown Industries Family Scholarship Program at DSC, the Brown Conference Center at Hamilton Medical Center and in Waleska, the James and Sis Brown Athletic Complex at Reinhardt University

A quote on the Brown Industries website from the company's founder reads: "I'm just a person who has received many benefits from my community and who owes a great debt of gratitude back ..." -- James E. Brown

In return, we as a community owe a great debt of gratitude to the Brown family.

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