Bob Shaw, a carpet king, burnishes his Northwest Georgia legacy

By Dan Chapman - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution DALTON — You’re nearing 80. You…

Georgia (Sep 3, 2013) — By Dan Chapman - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


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DALTON — You’re nearing 80. You built the world’s largest carpet-making company. Warren Buffett bought that company. You’re beyond-comfortable rich. And you developed an upscale golf community that allows unfettered access to your recreational passion.

What now?

If you’re Bob Shaw – the founder and long-time CEO of Shaw Industries who retired in 2005 – you get back in the flooring game with little doubt that, once again, you’ll walk among the Carpet Kings of Dalton.

Engineered Floors, a company Shaw started in 2009, unveiled plans earlier this month to invest $450 million into building two new factories that will eventually hire 2,400 more people across Northwest Georgia. It was Georgia’s largest jobs announcement since 2006 when Kia and AirTran promised thousands of jobs.

Engineered, in four short years, has become the nation’s fifth largest carpet maker.

“We expect to be a player in the carpet business over a long period of time,” Shaw, now 81, said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Obviously, if you’re going into business, and business is a game, you play the game to win.”

Carpet put Dalton, 90 miles north of Atlanta, on the map, and Shaw did more than anybody else to transform the region into a manufacturing powerhouse. From its hillside perch, Shaw Industries’ corporate headquarters keeps watch over two dozen of its factories and distribution centers in the town below. …

The Shaws began making carpet in 1967 with the acquisition of the Philadelphia Carpet Company in Cartersville. A pattern was set: grow by acquisition, invest in technology and branch out into virtually every facet of the industry’s production-to-delivery system.

Shaw Industries also moved into hardwood and vinyl flooring. By the late ’70s the company had broached the ranks of Top Five carpet makers. By 1986, Shaw was No. 1.

Its climb wasn’t without setback. Shaw took “vertical integration” a step too far, attempting in 1995 to sell direct to the public. The company lost big bucks, its stock suffered, and the CEO soon learned the folly of competing against major retailers, like Home Depot.

“One of the phrases that cropped up over and over again in the 1980s and ’90s, when they were really on the move, was that they wanted to ‘control their own destiny,’” said Randy Patton, a Kennesaw State professor who wrote the book “Shaw Industries: A History” in 2003. “And Shaw was the guy more than anybody else who consolidated the carpet industry. He created a company that eventually revolutionized the industry with their tactics, techniques and technology.” 




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