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Nonprofit employer set to expand in Sylva

Webster Enterprises is growing, and a newly leased building on Harold Street in Sylva is expected to allow the nonprofit to expand a recently added component of its business and add at least 30 local jobs.

Webster Enterprises, established in 1976 by parents of disabled children, provides employment opportunities to the roughly 65 employees who work there making disposable medical devices. About two years ago, the nonprofit started expanding to offer commercial sewing products, as well.

“We started that at our current location [on Little Savannah Road] in a small building and quickly outgrew that building,” said Gene Robinson, executive director of Webster Enterprises. 

In December, Webster Enterprises signed a lease for a 12,000-square-foot building in Sylva, which used to house sewing operations for The Ashley Company. Currently, only 15 workers are involved in the commercial sewing side of the business, making items such as baby crib bedding, grass catchers for lawn mowers and covers for sectional sofas, but that number’s set to grow. 

“We expect that to grow by probably 30 people within a year and continue to grow after that,” Robinson said. “We are getting lots of opportunities to bid on contracts that involve different types of commercial sewing.”

This Thursday, a public hearing and vote at the Sylva Town Board meeting will determine whether Webster Enterprises gets permission to start production in the building, and Robinson is hoping for a positive answer. 

“We eventually have plans to enlarge our space here at Webster on Little Savannah Road and move the sewing operation back into the same location,” he said, “but we’re now leasing a building because the work is coming and we need to have a place to do it.”

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