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How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Town
By Beth Macy
Read by Kristin Kalbli
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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 waves of Asian competition hit, and ultimately Bassett was forced to send its production overseas.
One man fought back: John Bassett III, a shrewd and determined third-generation factory man, now chairman of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co, which employs more than 700 Virginians and has sales of more than $90 million. In Factory Man, Beth Macy brings to life Bassett’s deeply personal furniture and family story, along with a host of characters from an industry that was as cutthroat as it was colorful. As she shows how he uses legal maneuvers, factory efficiencies, and sheer grit and cunning to save hundreds of jobs, she also reveals the truth about modern industry in America.
Table of Contents
Reading Group Guide
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A Virginia Furniture Dynasty
Most of Virginia's furniture companies were launched with the help of patriarch John D. Bassett Sr., who created his own competition while at the same time maintaining a thread of control. Intertwining his corporate babies with the family tree, he helped spawn such companies as Bassett, Hooker, Stanley, Vaughan, and Vaughan-Bassett—and generations of family fortune. (This diagram shows the progression of the business through the family.)
What were all them little people doing at work today?
—BASSETT FURNITURE LINE WORKER ON THE PRESENCE OF TAIWANESE FACTORY MANAGERS
Once in a reporter's career, if one is very lucky, a person like John D. Bassett III comes along. JBIII is inspirational. He's brash. He's a sawdust-covered good old boy from rural Virginia, a larger-than-life rule breaker who for more than a decade has stood almost single-handedly against the outflow of furniture jobs from America.
"He's an asshole!" more than one of his competitors barked when they heard I was writing a book about globalization with JBIII as a main character. Over the course of researching this book, over the course of hearing his many lectures and listening to him evade my questions by telling me the same stories over and over, there were times that I agreed.
I first heard about him in Rocky Mount, Virginia, about half an hour from my home in Roanoke, while eating breakfast with my neighbor and good friend Joel Shepherd. Joel owns Virginia Furniture Market, a Rocky Mount retail establishment that began thriving at the same time the import boom hit. Right now as I type, I'm sitting in a paisley recliner that my husband and I still fight over because it's the comfiest seat in our 1926 American foursquare. I remember Joel showing it to me in his store, rocking it back and forth. Despite what I might have heard about made-in-China furniture, he told me, a swarm of high-school wrestlers could pin one another on this chair and it would not fall apart. With the friendly-neighbor discount, I bought it for a hundred and sixty bucks.
I had invited Joel to breakfast to pick his brain. I was working on a Roanoke Times series on the impact of globalization on southwest Virginia's company towns, articles inspired by the work of freelance photographer Jared Soares, who'd been making the hourlong trek from Roanoke to Martinsville three times a week for more than a year. His photos were gritty and moving: church services and tattoo artists; a textile-plant conveyor belt converted for use in a food bank; a disabled minister named Leonard whiling away the time in his kitchen in the middle of the afternoon. The people of Martinsville and Henry County, Virginia, were refreshingly open about what had happened to them, Jared told me, and he'd long wondered why our newspaper didn't do more to document the effects of globalization in our mountainous corner of the world.
Not that many other media outlets had done any better. According to a 2009 Pew Research Center survey, the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression was largely being covered from the top down, primarily from the perspective of big business and the Obama administration. The percentage of economy stories that featured ordinary people and displaced workers? Just 2 percent. If the people of Henry County wanted their stories to be heard, Jared and I were going to have to help.
It would be up to writers and photographers like us to paint the long-view picture of what had happened when, one after another, the textile and then the furniture factories closed and set up shop instead in Mexico, China, and Vietnam, where workers were paid a fraction of what the American laborers were earning. In the Henry County region alone, some twenty thousand people had lost their jobs.
In the early 1960s, Martinsville was Virginia's manufacturing powerhouse, known for being home to more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the country. But by 2009, one-fifth of the town's labor force was unemployed, and many of the millionaires had fled for cheerier landscapes. Henry County was now the capital of long-term unemployment, with Virginia's highest rate for nine of the past eleven years.
A week before my breakfast with Joel, an empty Bassett Furniture plant had burned to the ground. Police arrested Silas Crane, a thirty-four-year-old Henry County man who'd been trying to salvage the factory's copper electrical casings to sell on the black market but instead had sparked an electrical fire. His burns were visible in his police mug shot. I'd heard many similar stories, as some of the desperate moved from the unemployment rolls to the crime rosters. A stranger approached one woman I know outside a CVS pharmacy and offered her a hundred dollars if she'd sign for the purchase of the cold medicine pseudoephedrine—the main ingredient used to make methamphetamine.
Most people, though, were scraping by in legal ways—babysitting, growing their own food, working part-time at Walmart. The director of an area food pantry told me that he could divine what people used to do for work by their disfigurements: The women who'd been bent over sewing machines all day making sweatshirts had humps on their backs. The men who culled lumber were missing fingers. "We're the last, last, last resort, to come stand in line and get a box of old food," he said.
But, Joel explained, there was this feisty old man in Galax, a small town about seventy miles away from Rocky Mount, who'd managed to buck the trend. He was from the family that had once run the largest furniture-making operation in the world, Bassett Furniture Industries. His name was John D. Bassett III, and, yes, he was from that Bassett family—the name inscribed on the back of so many American headboards and dressers; the name often stamped on the bedroom suite behind door number three on Let's Make a Deal. The story of how he fought against the tides of globalization was full of legal cunning, political intrigue, and, judging from what Joel told me about Bassett's Asian competitors, some serious cowboy grit.
As Joel explained over a plate of sausage biscuits and gravy that morning, imitating the patriarch's booming voice and cringe-inducing chutzpah: "The 'fucking Chi-Comms' were not going to tell him how to make furniture!"
But there was another, even juicier element to the story. John Bassett was no longer living in the eponymous company town of Bassett, Virginia. He'd been booted out of his family's business by a domineering relative. Three decades later, the family squabble turned corporate coup still had local tongues wagging with talk of a living-room fight scene (some say it was the front porch), a rescue-squad call, and, my favorite detail: John Bassett tipping the ambulance driver a hundred bucks not to tell anybody that he'd had his battered brother-in-law hauled away, like something out of Dynasty.
But was any of it true? And what did the family infighting have to do with John Bassett giving the middle finger to the lure of easy money overseas?
Plenty, it would turn out. But peeling that onion would take me more than a year. It would have me burning up U.S. Route 58, the curvy mountain road that meanders through the former company towns just north of the Virginia–North Carolina line, where it hits you why the people of Henry County have come to call what happened "the 58 virus."
It would send me across the Blue Ridge to John Bassett's billowing smokestacks in Galax; to the International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, North Carolina, to meet a crop of young MBAs and marketing execs in their skinny suits and aggressive glasses; and, on the advice of laid-off Stanley Furniture worker Wanda Perdue, to Surabaya, Indonesia, where much of the world's wooden bedroom furniture is now made.
I first met Wanda in early 2012 outside a community college computer lab, where she came for regular tutoring in math. She was fifty-eight years old, cobbling together a living by working part-time at Walmart and hoping to land a full-time position as soon as she got her associate's degree in office administration. Her one splurge was buying Luck's pinto beans, the only non-store-brand food she allowed herself.
The farthest she'd been from home was a trip to Myrtle Beach she'd taken three years before. It was her first time seeing the ocean—at the age of fifty-five.
"I want you to see what they do in Indonesia and explain to me why we can't do that here no more," she said.
Fair enough, I thought.
Joel and I were sitting in a landscape of rusted silos and vacant factories. Weeds sprouted through cracks in empty parking lots. Across the street from us was the shell of Lane Furniture, another defunct furniture maker that, like Stanley, had family connections to Bassett. In the 1920s, Edward Lane pushed the notion that every teenage girl in America needed to store her trousseau in a hope chest made of protective cedarwood, a safe place to keep her hopes and household accessories until she landed the man of her dreams. By the time soldiers returned from World War II, the cedar chest was ubiquitous, a must-have in the starter kit for a suburban home. "It's the Real Love-Gift," Say America's Most Romantic Sweethearts, proclaimed a 1948 ad featuring Audie Murphy, the decorated combat soldier and movie star.
Joel pointed to the silk mills where his aunts had once worked, now closed, every one of them: the victims of what economists call "creative destruction." The lost jobs and vanishing industries that resulted from the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 and China's joining the World Trade Organization in 2001 were necessary outcomes, the theory goes. Over time, society becomes richer and more productive, and citizens across the globe benefit from higher living standards.
Thomas L. Friedman devotes nearly all 639 pages of The World Is Flat to the benefits of globalization, noting that it saved American consumers roughly $600 billion, extended more capital to businesses to invest in new innovations, and helped the Federal Reserve hold interest rates down, which in turn gave Americans a chance to buy or refinance homes.
Or as Joel put it, reminding me of my hundred-and-sixty-dollar recliner: "We've all enjoyed the benefits of falling prices. A person can get far more value for [her] furniture dollar now than she could thirty years ago." Not to mention that globalization has improved the standard of living among factory workers in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia, people who used to toil in rice paddies and farm fields.
The car put the carriage makers out of work, just like the Internet hurt mail carriers and many of my own newspaper colleagues—one of the reasons my newspaper shrank its core coverage area and no longer has a Henry County beat.
But as the daughter of a displaced factory worker, I wondered about the dinghies being sunk by globalization's rising tide. I questioned why the unemployment stories rarely quoted the displaced workers or mentioned the fact that many folks in the corporate offices had simply switched jobs from factory bosses to global-sourcing managers. They were still there, still fabulously employed, some hauling in seven-figure salaries. When the big guys weren't off traveling the globe, their cars were among the few left in the company parking lots.
In small towns across America, the front-page stories about escalating drug crime and lower test scores seemed somehow linked to the page 3 briefs on deaths in faraway garment factories. But that connection was hard to define—and even harder to report on—given the complex Spirograph of interlooping supply chains, impotent regulators, and press-avoiding CEOs.
No one, it seemed, was minding the back room of this new global store.
My first memory: Riding with an older sister to pick up my mom from work at Grimes, the aircraft-lighting factory in Urbana, Ohio. Mom worked the graveyard shift when the economy was good. When it wasn't, she waitressed—badly, she said—and watched other people's kids. At Grimes, she sat with other women at long tables in a cavernous, dimly lit room, tucked into a row of Quonset huts. They soldered strobe lights for airplanes. When she got home, she used to pay me a quarter to rub her throbbing neck.
I remember pointing to airplanes passing by overhead and saying to my friends, "See that light? My mom made that." So what if the lights Mom soldered were fixed to military transport planes, not those passenger jets I pointed out. My mom's handiwork was stellar. You could see it up there, right near the stars.
The Vietnam War ended, and it would be a long economic slog in Urbana before the aircraft lighting workers benefited from a thirteen-million-dollar contract to make searchlights for Black Hawk helicopters, in 2012, some fifteen years after the heirs of inventor Warren "Old Man" Grimes cashed out. Honeywell International now runs Urbana's aerospace lighting operations in modern facilities staffed by about half the number of assembly workers it once employed. The company that used to be the town's sugar daddy now employs about 650, down from 1,300 at its peak, with much of the production accomplished via circuit cards and high-tech machinery rather then hand labor. One of my high-school buddies helps manage the outsourced engineers—via video teleconferencing—in Bangalore, India, where they're paid one quarter of what their American counterparts earn.
Throughout my childhood, my dad nursed his psychological wounds from World War II in VFW and American Legion halls. He was a housepainter by trade, but in my shame, I saw him as the serially unemployed town drunk. He didn't attend my band concerts or my softball games or even my high-school graduation—lapses that seem almost criminal to me now that I have kids. But that's the way it was, and since I didn't know any different, it didn't keep me awake at night. The best thing he provided was access to a doting grandmother: his mom, who lived next door, taught me to read when I was four, and kept a roof over our heads (she owned our house).
We weren't victims of globalization. But, like the blue-collar folks I interviewed in Bassett and Galax who followed their parents and grandparents to the assembly lines, we didn't have a lot of options beyond high school. I managed to get to college thanks to the nudging of wonderful teachers and friends (and friends' parents), federally funded Pell Grants, work-study jobs, and scholarships. My older brother edged his way into the middle class through grit and brains. A high-school dropout with moderate epilepsy, he progressed through a series of car-safety jobs until he landed at a major automotive research-and-development center in Raymond, Ohio, where he designs crash-test fixtures. By the time I graduated from college and got my first newspaper job, he was making more than twice my salary.
A few years back, a group of researchers at the University of Virginia invited him to share the details of his work. My brother, with his GED and a few community college courses under his belt, was summoned to Mr. Jefferson's University to tell those PhDs what he'd put together by way of experience and elbow grease. Not long ago his company gave him a bonus for inventing a new process that saved it thousands of dollars. He's been lucky to get to use his innate intelligence despite his lack of a formal degree. "It's no big deal," he tells me when I brag about his ability to make or fix not just cars but anything. "Mostly it's just common sense."
The moment I heard there was a company owner who had actually taken on big business and the People's Republic of China, I knew I had to find out who John Bassett was. He had not only kept his small factory going but somehow managed to turn it into the largest wooden-bedroom-furniture factory in America.
I got on the highway to Galax to meet the Southern patriarch, then seventy-four, at his Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Company. I'd already mapped out his insanely twisted family tree at the Virginia Room of the Roanoke City Library, already called around to get the real scoop about his long-simmering family feud. I'd already interviewed several Henry County textile and furniture workers who were laid off not long after Taiwanese managers showed up to take pictures of the Virginia assembly lines so they could copy them back home.
One woman described her mom hobbling home from work, her knees shot from decades of standing on concrete floors, and wondering aloud, "What were all them little people doing at work today?"
I already knew that JBIII (as I began to refer to him) was grooming his middle-aged sons, Wyatt and Doug, to take over. Both had returned home after business school to help save the family company. I'd heard, too, that he'd cut their salaries when the recession hit rather than lay off more line workers, and he personally stopped pulling a paycheck during the leanest years.
One rainy afternoon, a furniture-store owner in nearby Collinsville described for me how globalization had taken a 70 percent bite out of his business, a store that used to be frequented by people who worked in the Henry County textile and furniture plants. Delano Thomasson's father had worked down the road from Bassett at Stanley Furniture, in Stanleytown, and his mother down another road at Fieldcrest, a sprawling textile plant started by Chicago-based Marshall Field's—and now the site of a weekly community food bank. (In the ladies' room of the Fieldale Café, a meat-and-three diner frequented by retirees, a framed photograph proudly displays what put this town on the map: a stack of Fieldcrest towels.)
Bassett Furniture was no longer made in Bassett, Delano explained in his Southern drawl as rain plinked into metal buckets set down to protect the sofas and bedroom suites (pronounced "suits" in Southern furniture lingo). "With his determination, John Bassett probably would have kept some of Bassett Furniture factories going if he could've kept the company."
I should have made up a shorthand for that statement the first time I heard it. I've interviewed scores of people since then who've said essentially the same thing.
Delano knew all about JBIII's covert mission to Dalian, China, and he had his own version of the evil-brother-in-law yarn—the story of the man who'd elbowed JBIII out of the CEO job at Bassett Furniture, the company John Bassett III had been reared to run. But would any of the Bassetts open up to me about those things? Would JBIII reveal what it felt like to be the family black sheep with a dresser-size chip on his shoulder? Would he tell me the real story of how he'd fought the Chinese? If he wouldn't, would the people who grew up under the thumb of the family that ran the company town be bold enough to spill the beans?
"You don't even realize what kind of spiderweb you've got going," said Bassett Furniture's longtime corporate pilot, a man who worked for years under John Bassett's brother-in-law and nemesis, Bob Spilman. "War and Peace will seem like a ten-cent novel compared to your spiderweb. But lucky for you, the scorpion is already dead," he added, referring to Spilman, the Bassett CEO who could be equally brilliant and biting.
JBIII comes from an imposing family of multimillionaires whose ancestors signed the Magna Carta and who maintain a persistent but unspoken code that, no matter what, one should always keep the family secrets where they belong: in the family closet. What secrets would he tell me, the daughter of a former factory worker?
I relate better to people like Octavia Witcher, a fifty-five-year-old displaced Stanley Furniture worker who gave me her elderly mother's phone number as a contact, because her own phone was about to be turned off. And to people like divorced former Tultex worker Mary Redd, who described trying to raise her fourteen-year-old daughter alone, working the only job she could find—as a thirty-hour-a-week receptionist, with no benefits. When she told me that, I recalled receiving full financial aid for college because my mom, widowed by that time, made just eight thousand dollars a year test-driving cars for a Honda subcontractor.
When Mary recounted running into the former Tultex CEO at a party she was helping cater for Martinsville's elite, what she said to him literally made me gasp: "If Tultex were to open back up today and the only way I could get there would be to crawl on my belly like a snake, I would do it."
John Bassett grew up with chauffeurs, vacation homes, and prep schools. I was the longshot and the underdog, but fortunately for me, John Bassett was too, whether he was ready to admit it to a reporter or not.
With any luck at all, he would help me explain this circuitous piece of American history, from its hardwood forests to its executive boardrooms; from handsaws and planing tools to smartphones and Skype; from the oak logs that sailed from the port of Norfolk, Virginia, to Asia and then returned, months later, in the form of dressers and beds.
The Original Outsourcer
Someday I'll buy and sell you.
—J.D. BASSETT SR. TO HIS FATHER, JOHN HENRY BASSETT
To understand JBIII, you have to understand where he comes from, a place where everywhere he looked, he saw his name: on the WELCOME TO BASSETT sign, the bank, the library, the school, and the myriad company smokestacks that rose high above the town. Born into a family of brash, industrious people who weren't afraid of hard work—as long as their pockets were getting lined—he was named for his grandfather John David Bassett Sr., or J.D., as the town's founder and patriarch was known. If you worked for him, and most people did, you called him "Mr. J.D."
But before there was a company called Bassett, there was a place called Bassett, and before it was called that, it was just red clay and foothills, a nowhere spot from a time when people named things for exactly what they were.
Horsepasture is where this story begins.
To the families who lived in Horsepasture, the Smith River dominated everything. It floated tobacco to market on bateaux. Its floods made soil-enriching silt, grist for fertile bottomland, and bumper crops of corn and tobacco. With its flat, low, and deceptively slow current, it would become one of Virginia's best trout-fishing streams. It froze in winter, gave cooling relief in summer, and by and by, it unleashed its might.
And on the day of JBIII's birth, the Smith River nearly ruined everything.
John Bassett III was born during the epic flood of 1937. Town Creek, from the county to the north, had spilled over its banks, and the Smith soon followed suit. It had been a good summer. The future Yankees' star Phil Rizzuto had just pounded out eighty-eight hits and turned nearly as many double plays, leading his minor-league team, the Bassett Furnituremakers, to the Bi-State League title. People were feeling good about the bustling little company town, and JBIII's grandfather Mr. J.D. felt especially good. He liked to buy ice cream and peanuts for kids at baseball games, and he could afford to, with six humming factories that sent freight cars laden with Bassett furniture all over the country.
Then, overnight, everything changed. After several hours of rain, Mr. J.D. saw the river rushing. His chauffeur ran him from one end of town to the other while he barked orders and warned people to seek higher ground. In the worst flood to hit in a century, the Smith steeped the railroad tracks and made kindling out of the town's swinging suspension bridges, which were owned by Bassett Furniture, like most everything else.
Water flowed through the first-floor windows of the town's Riverside Hotel. Drenched phone lines and highways were rendered useless. The people who worked in the Bassett Furniture plants climbed the hills and watched everything that wasn't fastened down float away, even the cows.
It was a dramatic backdrop for the entrance of the third John Bassett, a flood of near biblical proportions that had people wondering, decades later, if it prophesied his exit from the town. His parents already had three girls, and the entire family had been praying for a boy. An heir. Someone who would one day run the growing furniture dynasty.
Days before John Bassett III was due to enter the world, a different chauffeur had driven his mother sixty miles south to a hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Labor had come so swiftly with her last baby that the girl had been born at home. With this birth, the parents wanted to be cautious, especially with the river rising.
The flood was so bad that the Red Cross pitched tents on the hills. People sat atop railroad cars to inspect the rising waters as silt poured into their company-owned homes. Yet another Bassett family chauffeur was dispatched to pick up Mr. J.D.'s son, John D. Bassett Jr.—or Mr. Doug, as he was known—so he could check on the drenched factories while his wife was away giving birth. Despite the devastation—it took the factory equipment days to dry out—Mr. J.D. could at least take some comfort in the arrival of a third-generation heir.
Along with Mr. J.D., the Smith River ruled Bassett, Virginia, or at least the ten-mile stretch of it that bisected the smoky little unincorporated town. In a grainy photograph of the flood, four young men standing in knee-deep water pose for the camera, two of them clad in bib overalls, the typical factory worker's uniform. The three white men in the picture are playful, clearly enjoying the rare day off. The lone black man is standing slightly apart, straight as a pine, his arms folded and one hand clutching a hat. Very likely he was descended from Henry County slaves. Most black people there were.
"Race is entwined with everything down there," a Roanoke historian and race scholar warned me repeatedly as I set out to understand the Henry County of JBIII's youth.
- "In a class with other runaway debuts like Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit" and Katherine Boo's "Behind the Beautiful Forevers": These nonfiction narratives are more stirring and dramatic than most novels. And Ms. Macy writes so vigorously that she hooks you instantly. You won't be putting this book down."—Janet Maslin, New York Times
- "In a world of blue-collar victims, where logging chains seal forever the doors of mills and factories from the Rust Belt to the Deep South, Beth Macy's award-winning look at one furniture maker's refusal to give in is a breath of hope-and a damn fine story to read. The book tracks John Bassett's fight to keep American jobs on this side of borders and oceans, and keeps one American town from becoming a place of empty storefronts and FOR SALE signs."—Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Most They Ever Had
- "Beth Macy has done a masterful job in personalizing the biggest American economic story of our time--how to save American jobs in the 21st Century. John Bassett III is a cinematic figure and quintessential American, battling for his company, his town and his country."—Jonathan Alter, author of The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies
- "The author's brightly written, richly detailed narrative not only illuminates globalization and the issue of offshoring, but succeeds brilliantly in conveying the human costs borne by low-income people displaced from a way of life.... A masterly feat of reporting."—Kirkus (starred review)
- "Macy's down-to-earth writing style and abundance of personal stories from manufacturing's beleaguered front lines make her work a stirring critique of globalization."—Carl Hays, Booklist
- "Macy's riveting narrative is rich in local color.... Vivid reporting."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
- "The unlikely hero of Factory Man is a determined, ornery, and absolutely indomitable...business man. He's the head of a family furniture company and damned if he's going to be pushed around. Beth Macy has given us an inspiring and engaging tale for our times, but not the expected one."—Alex Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Losing the News: The Future of the News that Feeds Democracy, Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and Laurence M. Lombard Lecturer in the Press and Public Policy
- "The epic struggle of Virginia furniture manufacturer John Bassett III (JBIII) to save his business has given crackerjack reporter Beth Macy the book she was born to write. Longtime champion of the downtrodden and the working American, Macy brings globalization down to a human scale, giving a real voice and a recognizable face to everyone involved, from factory worker to government official to Chinese importer. Thorough reporting and brilliant writing combine to make FACTORY MAN an exciting, fast-paced account of a quintessentially American story that affects us all."—Lee Smith, author of Guests on Earth
- "Beth Macy sees twists and subtleties that other journalists can't see, and she writes about the world around her with grit, honesty and remarkable grace. She has a police detective's diligence and determination, a poet's way with words, and a born storyteller's gift for spot-on narrative."—Martin Clark, author of The Legal Limit
- "Spirited, meticulously researched and well-written.... A page-turning tale that covers the company's history, family squabbles and the black-sheep son who rescued the company through pluck, persistence and political wrangling."—Margaret Jaworski, Success Magazine
- "I've been reading Beth Macy for years. She is a great American writer. She sees everything, all the precious detail. A few years back, as the world was collapsing around us, she did a story on the temp who was answering phones at a hotline for those in financial hot water. The temp was this immense hero in all these ways that nobody else would have ever recognized. Of course, Macy never called her a hero. She just let the story do the work."—Roland Lazenby, author of Michael Jordan
- "John Bassett's story has everything. An extraordinary dynasty, a relevant and inspiring message, and one of the best heroes I've read about in years. It works on every level, from the most personal betrayal to the realities of the global economy, from the struggle of one worker in a small Appalachian town to the future of our cultural as a whole. Part of me wishes I'd found John Bassett III, because this is powerful stuff, but it's obvious the story is in excellent hands with Beth Macy. Sometimes the right writer comes along with the right story at the right time. This is clearly that book."—Bret Witter, author of Dewey and Until Tuesday
- "In a compelling and meticulously researched narrative, Macy follows the story from the Blue Ridge Mountains to China and Indonesia, chronicling [John] Bassett's tireless work to revive his company, and with it, an American town."—Garden & Gun
- "It's a must-read just for its look at what happens at home when we send jobs overseas and how we all play a role. This one is a page-turner."—DesignSponge
- "A triumph.... Get Factory Man and take your time with it. It's a big ol' delicious toasted sandwich of a book."—Kurt Rheinheimer, The Roanoker
- On Sale
- Jul 15, 2014
- Hachette Audio