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story.lead_photo.caption Photo submitted When the first La-Z-Boy chair rolled off the assembly line at the company's new plant in Siloam Springs 45 years ago, the company had the foresight to donate it to the Siloam Springs Museum. Recently, La-Z-Boy Foundation donated $25,000 to the museum for a manufacturing/industrial exhibit in the newly renovated museum when it reopens in 2019. Pictured, from left, are Sarah Starkey, Jeff McGarrah, Mary Nolan, Don Warden, Paul Dilbeck, Neil Erter, Audra Farrell, Don Austin, Mike Wilmon, Katie Rennard, Rick WIlmoth and Kevin Harmon.

When La-Z-Boy came to Siloam Springs in 1973 and began production in the former Pet Milk Plant on Waukesha Road, the company had the foresight to donate the first chair off the assembly line to the Siloam Springs Museum.

Forty-five years later, the local factory, now located on Country Club Road, is exponentially larger, but the company is still dedicated to local history. The La-Z-Boy Foundation recently donated $25,000 to sponsor a manufacturing/industrial exhibit at the Siloam Springs Museum when it reopens in 2019, according to Katie Rennard, museum board president.

"La-Z-Boy Incorporated is proud to operate in the Siloam Springs community," said Audra Farrell, La-Z-Boy Siloam Springs human resource manager. "It has truly been an honor to work side by side with Katie, Don (Warden, museum director), and the museum leaders to support a worthy cause to preserve the history of Siloam Springs. Importantly, following the example set by our founders, Edwin J. Shoemaker and Edward M. Knabusch, La-Z-Boy is committed to enhancing the quality of life in the communities in which we live and serve through leadership, financial contributions and volunteer efforts."

The manufacturing/industrial exhibit will permanently bear La-Z-Boy's name, but it will feature displays from many of the manufacturers in Siloam Springs' long history of industry, Rennard said. The donation will help the museum purchase features such as lighting and interactive components for the exhibit, and will provide the exhibit with long-term sustainability, she said.

"We are so thankful to La-Z-Boy and Audra Farrell, who toured our Museum and first saw the chair and accompanying photos in our current facility," Rennard said.

While the museum is under renovations, the 1970s style avocado green chair is on display in the lobby of the La-Z-Boy factory alongside a replica of the original 1927 wooden La-Z-Boy chair.

"They had the foresight, at that time, to give that chair to the museum, to realize that it's historically significant," Rennard said. "That's one of the things that we at the museum keep wanting to strive to say to people is that 'What happens today in our town is history tomorrow."

There is a strong history of industry in Siloam Springs, according to Rennard. The town was once home to the world's largest vinegar plant, but now produces more chickens than apples, she said. Access to the railroad tracks, transportation, a strong workforce and golf course to entertain clients may have been factors in the development of local industry, she said.

"At the end of the day, our quality of life changes every time an organization makes a commitment to our community, because not only do our employees have a chance to get a job at a living wage, but they also have children who grow up and sometimes take their place working in the corporation," Rennard said. "You also have all these volunteers who want to give back to the community, so Boys and Girls Club benefits, United Way benefits. ... And all this happens because a corporation makes a decision to choose our area to make their home. The years and years of combined income have changed the economic flow of Siloam Springs."

Museums can play a vital role in helping the community remember the impact of the past.

"It's great we are where we are, but it's great we realize how we got here," she said. "That's why we have museums."

General News on 09/16/2018

Print Headline: La-Z-Boy dedicated to local history

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