A Lynchburg man is out to prove American-made products can still be successful in the global marketplace.
Thomas Johnson owns a thriving business that builds and sells hand-made furniture, but he now wants to help others create their own fortune.
"This is a big space!," explained Johnson as he toured a new location Wednesday for his business in Lynchburg's industrial district.
Johnson is moving his furniture company's production facility from an old tobacco warehouse downtown to a larger complex on Mayflower Drive.
"Very soon, this place is going to be cranking," said Johnson.
Governor Bob McDonnell and other leaders came out Wednesday to help Johnson celebrate. It's a big milestone for a man who came to the U.S. from Africa less than 20 years ago with only a few dollars to his name.
"I believe, if it can be done anywhere else, it can be done in America," said Johnson. "It's all here."
Johnson is growing his business on a belief that there's a strong demand for American-made products like his.
"It's a myth for us to think that it has to be done somewhere else to make it cheaper," said Johnson.
Johnson says his client base is growing every day. He's hiring dozens of workers with plans to add even more.
As part of that expansion, he's also starting a woodworking school. Johnson wants to train others to do what he's done.
"We can make it here if we sharpen our tools. Sharpen our skills. Sharpen our brains," said Johnson.
Johnson still needs about three million dollars to open this school, but he's not letting that hold him back. He's already planning ahead and hoping to start classes sometime in the next year.
"I'm hopeful that it can be done and I will prove everybody wrong who tells me it's not possible," said Johnson.
That passion is attracting awards and praise from local and state leaders, who hope Johnson will be an example for others.
"His story as an entrepreneur will be one that will be retold around the state to inspire other young people, other entrepreneurs to do the same thing," said Governor Bob McDonnell.