ATHENS, AL -- Steelcase Inc. proposes to create its largest finishing operation in North America by expanding the current operations of its Athens plant and adding 50 jobs.

Plans call for Steelcase to invest approximately $2 million on new finishing equipment. According to The News Courier, the Athens City Council unanimously approved $46,300 in tax abatements for each of the next 10 years to help support the office furniture company's expansion project.

Steelcase currently employs about 940 people at its Athens plant making it the largest employer in Tennessee Valley, according to WAAY-TV. The company opened the plant in 1979 to manufacture wall systems for office environments.

Athens has been a beneficiary of Grand Rapids-based Steelcase's decision at the start of the year to close three North American plants and consolidate their operations into other Steelcase locations, one of them the Athens plant.

Steelcase's environmentally award-winning Answer panel systems that had been made in Markham, ON, Canada, are now being produced in Athens.