The Voice of Business, Industry & the Professions Since 1942
North Carolina's largest business group proudly serves as the state chamber of commerce


April 2005

A Letter From Phil Kirk

We Can't Take Market for Granted


When one thinks of High Point, one often thinks of furniture.  The reason is obvious to most readers of this column, but many of the more than eight million citizens of North Carolina have no idea that High Point in the Piedmont Triad is the “Furniture Capital of the World.”

Known for years as the Furniture Market, the official name is the International Home Furnishings Market and the largest home furnishings trade show in the WORLD takes place there every April and October.

Called Market by the locals, it comprises more than 11.5 million square feet of exhibition space in more than 180 separate buildings.  More than 3,000 exhibitors are present twice-a-year to show their products to 75,000 buyers from around the world.

An economic impact report was prepared last year by Dr. Andrew Brod of the office of Business and Economic Research of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

As our economy and job mix change, it is of critical importance that the public and private sectors unite to save and enhance the positives we have in our state’s economy, such as the Market.  Everyone involved in the market knew that its impact on our state’s diverse economy and the Triad in particular was huge.  But no dollar value had ever been attached to the impact.

Three different aspects of spending were considered.  Direct spending by attendees is important and that can be divided into indirect spending by businesses directly involved with the Market and induced impact is the increased spending by businesses that serve the households of employees of those businesses.

For the Triad region the annual economic impact is $1,053,005,211 (that’s more than a billion dollars!) and 12,774 jobs.  For the entire state the annual impact is $1,144,889,218 and 13,516 jobs.  In addition, the assessed tax value of the buildings used during Market totals $667 million. The sales tax generated each year from all market activities is over $80 million annually.

So many High Point area businesses depend on the Market — construction, landscaping, food, hotels, subcontractors, transportation, printing, florists and more.

Statewide just the construction and up-fitting each year for showrooms generates 6,300 jobs and $448 million in household income. In one building alone, 30 general contractors do the same work as if they built 1,200 single family homes a year.

Should the Market ever decline in popularity and attendance and exhibitors be reduced, the impact on the economy and jobs in particular would be devastating and High Point could become a “ghost town.”

However, this is not likely to happen because the High Point business community is taking nothing for granted for the future.

The International Home Furnishings Market Authority was established several years ago to bring focus and organization to make sure everything possible is done to improve and enhance the experiences which the 75,000 visitors to High Point enjoy each year.  Judy Mendenhall, former High Point Mayor and chamber CEO, is the President of the Authority.

Transportation, for example, has been a challenge which has been vastly improved.  Market visitors stay in hotel rooms in Guilford, Forsyth, Davidson, Alamance, and other counties.  They need efficient, comfortable, and dependable transportation to downtown High Point each day.

The Authority works on a number of other issues, including marketing and educating the buyers from around the world about the Market.  It also is working more effectively than ever before in educating public officials, the news media, and the public in general about the value of the Market.

The U.S. Congress and N.C. General Assembly have made very modest investments of public dollars, especially in improving the transportation system.

Until recent years, financial assistance from the General Assembly and the U.S. Congress had not been sought, but the threat from Las Vegas and possibly from other locations in the future led to a more aggressive approach from the Authority.  Legislation introduced in the North Carolina legislature by Senators Katie Dorsett, Kay Hagan, and Stan Bingham and Representatives Laura Wiley, Jerry Dockham, Maggie Jeffus and Earl Jones would provide $1.3 million to improve the transportation system. It would provide for growth in the existing transportation system which serves buyers in perhaps as many as 100 area hotels, free shuttles between the Raleigh/Durham and Charlotte airports and downtown High Point, as well as from the Piedmont Triad International Airport and area hotels.

Marketing funds totaling $1.2 million are being sought to supplement what the Authority currently spends and will allow the following additional efforts: advertising in high profile publications which are read by designers, a group that is targeted by the Market to increase their attendance at the show; increased direct mail targeting specific groups of buyers whose attendance on a regular basis is desired; special buyer assistance campaigns targeting the several hundred largest buying units; and additional use of technology in general to promote the show and make it more accessible and efficient for attendees.

Sixth District Congressman Howard Coble has been very helpful at the federal level in regard to transportation funding and tax issues related to homeowners renting their homes to Market attendees while they are in the High Point area.

High Point officials are wise not to take for granted that the Market will always be the gem that it is today in our changing global economy and in the ways business is done.  Southern hospitality is an important ingredient unmatched anywhere in the world and High Point is known for that!




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Last Modified: April 20, 2005
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