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!