Dalton roars back

By Santiago Montero

There are places in the world that stand for much more than just a geographical spot on the map. Take Hollywood for movies, or Detroit and the automobile, Pittsburgh and the steel industry or Nashville and country music. These places have all rallied around an industry and made it their own.

And so it is with Dalton. What used to be known as the “Carpet Capital of the World,” where there once were as many millionaires per capita as there were in Hollywood, has become the flooring capital of the world. And for good reason.

I could tell you about the economic development opportunities that the state is embarking on. (In fact, much of this issue is dedicated to exactly that.) And, yes, it’s true, they are impressive. Likewise, we could talk about the grandeur of the Northwest Georgia mountains that never fail to inspire. I could talk about the incredible bank of knowledge that has taken hold in this town and that transformed a cottage industry into one of the most technologically advanced manufacturing hubs in the world. I could even tell you about the more than one billion dollars of investment capital that has flooded this town and its environs in recent years. And certainly, these are no small feats.

But all that has really very little to do with what makes this place special. It’s not about money, or machines, or outputs, or geography.

So what is it? The answer: People. Whether it be the entrepreneurs that gave birth to the flooring industry, or the ones who arrive every day to make their mark on the world, Dalton is a place that has for decades attracted some of the best talent the world has to offer. It’s the executives at Shaw who outline a 50 year vision for their future, or the guys in lab coats at Mohawk who created a completely new fiber system, or Bob Shaw whose commitments to the industry and to his community go far beyond the $450 million check he’s writing for this newest polyester carpet plant.

It’s also the truck driver who’s so proud of the company he works for — and his wife who works for the competitor and is just as proud. It’s the kid attending college and dreaming of a career in flooring. It’s the high school teacher who is preparing a whole generation of youth for a career that will give them the chance to stay in the community and still make a good living. It’s the folks fighting to clear a path for more local jobs and opportunities like Carl Campbell and his bosses. It’s the guy working the line — at a laminate or LVT plant, at a printing press, or behind the wheel of a fork lift — and the care and pride they bring to their work.

That’s the real secret to the success of Dalton and the entire Northwest Georgia community.

What a privilege it has been to meet and talk and laugh and share with all of you this incredible industry we call our own.

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