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

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3.84  ·  Rating details ·  2,136 ratings  ·  390 reviews
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
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Hardcover, 464 pages
Published July 15th 2014 by Little, Brown and Company
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3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,136 ratings  ·  390 reviews


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Christopher
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm from Bassett, VA - a grandson of two factory workers, son of a John D Bassett High School graduate, son of a former director of the Bassett High School Band, baptized at Pocahontas Bassett Baptist Church, lived on Pocahontas Trail - and very sad when I drive through town these days, to see what has happened to the town, the whole area. I'm reading this book now and it is helping me to understand my own history, my own grief.
Mike
Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Town is getting a disappointing 3 Stars as it did not measure up to my expectations. It is an excellent book if you would like to see the development of the furniture industry and how various centers of furniture making have been subjected to “creative destruction”. The Virginia/North Carolina nexus of furniture making took the business away from Detroit which had taken it from Boston which had ta ...more
Jenna
Jul 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
What sparked my interest in this book was a number of things. One being that I lived in Martinsville Virginia for a few years (around where the story takes place) and that I have a fascination of how so many American companies choose cheap furniture made oversees in order to fill their pockets full of more money. I just can't imagine putting my name on something of such low quality just to have that extra summer home that I would only visit once in a while.

I had no idea, shame on me, that John B
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Miriam
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing book. It's the story of the Basset Furniture empire, but it's also the story of America: family drama, business, industrialization, international commerce and competition and how the little guy becomes the big guy and then back again. It's also so well-written, Beth Macy is a great storyteller. Highly recommended.
Madelyn
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've read Beth Macy's reporting for years and I loved seeing all of her skills come together to give these towns, these people and these issues the attention they deserve. You'll be hearing a lot more about this book this year.
Wendi
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This one is simply AMAZING! From the hero character JBIII to the unemployed and underemployed of Bassett, Va., and all the way to Asia, it's a story of globalization that gripped me from the get-go. I had no idea a business book could be so readable. And it made me cry.
Bill Glose
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most important books of our times. It describes how globalization is tearing apart the fabric of America by outsourcing its ability to produce by showcasing the plight of individuals and the surrounding community affected by the shuttering of Bassett Furniture factories. Not only does Roanoke Times reporter Beth Macy bring together impressive research on the rise, fall and outsourcing of an American furniture empire, but she also tells the story in compelling fashion.

America r
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Mark Mortensen
Nov 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
“Factory Man” is a story of the Bassett Furniture Company once the world’s largest furniture maker and heir John D. Bassett III, who was determined to maintain American manufacturing and fight Chinese dumping imports. In his quest to stem massive layoffs and plant closings he also had to take a stand against some Americans.

The company founded in 1902 by J.D. Bassett expanded through innovation and reinvestment during the 20th Century. J.D. Bassett was ecstatic when his grandson, John D. Bassett
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Mal Warwick
Oct 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
“Between 2001 and 2013, 63,300 American factories closed their doors and five million American factory jobs went away. During that same time, China’s manufacturing base ballooned to the tune of 14.1 million new jobs.”

Numbers like these are impossible for any of us to get our arms around. How can we understand the human impact of this historic shift when all we have to work with are statistics only an economist could love? The award-winning journalist Beth Macy beautifully responds to that questi
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Jen
Oct 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
This was a difficult book to read. The first roughly 60% due to the family history, which was full of drama, and the history of the furniture factory, which was also drama filled and built on the backs of the underprivileged and helped along by some industry espionage and thievery. You need a family tree to follow who is who, especially since a set of Bassett brothers married a set of sisters, so things get kinda confusing.

After roughly the 60% mark, you get into the meat of the subtitle of thi
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Tom Landon
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've just read the galleys of this book and I can't wait for it to come out. It's sure to ruffle a few feathers in Bassett, VA, but the story of how one man fought offshoring to save his furniture factory and a town from becoming abandoned like so many other southern factory towns is inspiring and a damn fine story.

I admit to some bias as I know the author well, but I think you all will get just as sucked into the story as I did. It's not just a business story, though that's there - it's a tale
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Todd Stockslager
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
Review title: All globalization is local

Beth Macy writes this modern classic of business, economics and cultural geography with a reporter's attention to facts and a novelist's sense of what matters. A reporter for the Roanoke (VA) Times, Macy wrote much of this material as a series of local-interest articles for her newspaper, and she moves effortlessly from the local people and particulars of her story to the national and global implications that rise from them. It is the kind of story that be
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Catherine Read
Aug 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"He may be an asshole, but when he's your asshole, that's a very good thing." Garet Bosiger. A wonderful book that is about the past, the present and the possibilities of the future. It's a reality check for the global economic theories of the 21st century that look good on paper, and even make sense intellectually, but don't really factor in the consequences on real people living in communities built on a single manufacturing industry.

As a lifelong Virginian, born in Galax and raised in Southwe
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Dan Schiff
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Beth Macy is an incredibly dogged, scrappy reporter. But she's not quite a masterful storyteller. The tale of how Virginia furniture manufacturing came and went in Factory Man, along with Macy's folksy writing style, never quite grabbed me. I would have preferred it as a feature piece in Fortune magazine, as opposed to a 400-page book.

A big part of the problem is that Macy's protagonist, furniture scion and family outcast John Bassett III, is not nearly as interesting a character as she seems to
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Elizabeth Jamison
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In her inaugural book, Factory Man, Beth Macy provides a missing piece of American business and labor history - arguably the piece that is most important to understanding the United States in the 21st century - the impact of globalization on the often forgotten communities of small town America. In this compelling and exquisitely detailed and researched book, Macy tells the story of how one small town factory owner, John Bassett, III (JBIII), took the road less traveled for U.S. corporations in ...more
Sally Ewan
Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the story of John Bassett III, heir to the men who started the Bassett furniture companies back in 1902. It tells about the history of the family business, the power struggles within the family, and JBIII's fight with Chinese imports due to their impact on the furniture industry. What a great book! The author writes really well! She was warm and kind across the board, when talking about race relations or difficult people or other controversial topics. This account of the impact of free t ...more
Donna Wetzel
Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I loved this book!! Thanks Goodreads for my free copy of this book. I will recommend it to everyone I know. Nor only is it a great story,well written but it is also a story that needs to be told. People need to hear and understand how the decisions government makes affects all of us. This is a story of how one man stood up to help save good paying jobs from going overseas. I applaud Mr. Bassett,for his actions and Beth Macy for telling this story so elequently.
Jim
Nov 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
One of the most challenging issues facing the United States in the 21st century is how to cope with the consequences of economic globalization. Free trade agreements along with the adoption of free market principles in communist countries such as China and Vietnam have resulted in rapid and dramatic changes in the U.S. labor market, generally to the detriment of those at its lowest levels. Beth Macy looks at this challenge by focusing on how one industry centered in southwest Virginia and northe ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Chronicle of the Bassett Furniture company and its growth and struggles in the 20th and 21st century. This is a story of a company that grew in the heydey of the American economy especially the postwar period and then struggled after the crisis and rise of globalization and offshoring to places like China after the 1970s. It is a story about a company that managed to survive the hollowing out of America's industrial sector and financialization of the economy where the focus went from industry t ...more
Dale
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I worked at the Martinsville Bulletin from 1999 to 2000 when the giant sucking sound Ross Perot predicted after the passage of NAFTA consumed nearly 10,000 jobs in the Martinsville/Henry County textile industry. I attended the fire-sale of the industry’s machinery to third-world agents. Sewing machines, many still had photos of grandchildren taped to them, lined up in warehouses waiting for auction while at the same time their former operators queued in the breadlines of local churches. The larg ...more
Scott
Apr 10, 2015 rated it liked it
I actively hated the first half of this book, Beth Macy's well-received history/portrait of the wooden-furniture-making industry in Virginia and one family in particular, the Bassetts, whose company was once the largest such outfit in the world. My displeasure had a lot to do with the fact that the Bassetts and their ilk were all such pigs--greedy, misogynist, racist, anti-union, getting filthy rich for decades while keeping wages ridiculously low in the towns they lorded over--but also that Mac ...more
Drury
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Beth Macy has combined her skills as a reporter and writer to take the reader on a journey through the history of one of America's leading furniture-making families. Her focus rests on one member of the family who fought off the Asian furniture export market and kept his factory open, retaining a handful of employees. Seemingly heroic, he is hardly that. In reality, having won a monetary settlement in an anti-dumping campaign against the Chinese, he chose to invest in robotic machinery to perman ...more
Bobby
Oct 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Beth Macy clearly lays out the causes and results of the destruction of American furniture manufacturing from 2000 to the present due to the off-shoring of manufacturing to Asia. She shows the impact of the loss on the Appalachian Virginia region that depended upon the industry for its livelihood and community for generations.

Perhaps too much Bassett family history, in such detail that my head began to spin keeping track of all the J.D.s, CCs, Johns, Vaughns, and Stanleys, and all of their emplo
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Clifford
This would have been a much better book with some balance, because the story of the Bassett family is actually very interesting. But the author's premise seems to be that globalization is evil, and so there is no time spent on what the alternative to globalization is. Furthermore, although there is some mention that what the southern furniture makers did to the northern US manufacturers is exactly the same as what the Asian manufacturers have no done, this point seems to get lost. And that's par ...more
kathyrn
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley-copy
This book succeeds on so many levels, it is more than the story of John Bassett III -- it is the story of a family, a town, a factory, an American brand name and an American way of life and work that is going away. And it goes without saying that many of the aspects depicted in these factories and company towns needed to go away but the American worker shouldn't be pushed aside and needs more champions like John Bassett. How many of us live in a town or come from a town where a factory has close ...more
Mary Bishop
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes we get lazy and accept conventional views often planted by corporate campaigns. (Examples: Charter schools are always good; high-tech landfills never leak.) Another is: Globalization and the off-shoring of U.S. manufacturing haven't hurt us that much. Beth Macy roundly wallops that claim in "Factory Man." With deep investigation into the high and low ends of furniture-making, Macy shows us, in masterful narrative, what has become of once-proud factory workers and their towns. Forget th ...more
Brina
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Book stood out on shelf so I picked it up. Not something that generally interests me but I story interesting, and I rooted for JBIII the whole way.
Andrew
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, economics
Outsourcing and globalization is often discussed in the news without much detail. Beth Macy gives a complete case study of globalization of the furniture industry, centered around Bassett Furniture. The furniture industry is just one of many industries facing stiff competition from overseas. The depth of this book can be at times a bit overwhelming. The writing is clear and the story is fascinating. John Bassett III is a true american hero and his story deserves to be told. It was refreshing to ...more
D. Whittaker
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Title is mis-leading. This is really a book about the Bassett family. Only a chapter or two about how JBIII fought back. Nice insights into Southern culture, not always flattering. Too much genealogy for me and most of it not necessary. I gave it 4 stars because it was nicely done, but I would've wished to get to the 'meat' sooner. Once there, there wasn't that much meat. A good read if you have any interest in Southern capitalism, sociology, and or the furniture industry. Otherwise, a lukewarm ...more
Kat
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Co.ing from an area that has seen the devastation caused by offshoring, I found the Basset story fascinating. I applaud the family's effort to save jobs, provide healthcare and invest in their local economy.
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“most reporters don’t really understand it, but it’s hugely important,” said Richard McCormack, the coauthor and editor of ReMaking America and the editor of Manufacturing and Technology News, a trade publication. “Or they write about outsourcing one time and think they’ve covered it.” 0 likes
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