Market backers fight back
Supporters of the High Point Market will have a chance this week to personally lobby legislators for the first time since Gov. Pat McCrory recommended cutting state money for the trade show in half by the middle of 2014.
Market supporters will go to Raleigh on Wednesday as part of a previously scheduled regional delegation trip to the N.C. General Assembly.
“We’ll be making some calls around the Legislature. Also, they are hosting a luncheon that all members of the Legislature are invited to,” said Tom Conley, president of the High Point Market Authority.
Last week, McCrory stunned High Point leaders and residents by proposing that state funding for the trade show drop from $1.65 million now to $800,000 by the start of the 2014-15 fiscal year. The new Republican governor recommended the cuts as part of his $20.6 billion budget proposal to the GOP-controlled General Assembly.
State appropriations make up about one-third of the Market Authority’s $4.7 million annual budget. The money funds shuttle transportation services and promotion of the world’s largest home furnishings trade show, which also is the single-largest economic event in North Carolina each year.
Since McCrory’s proposed cuts to market funding became public last week, businesses that rely on the home furnishings industry have been “galvanized about how important market is,” Conley told The High Point Enterprise.
Supporters of the market should continue to emphasize that the impact of the trade show reaches beyond High Point and the Triad, said City Councilwoman Becky Smothers.
“There is a money trail across the state,” she said.
Ironically, Smothers said, while serving as High Point mayor last decade, she requested and received information from McCrory when he was mayor of Charlotte about the economic impact of market on his city. Many marketgoers fly in and out of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.
“He (McCrory) was instrumental in helping me get the data from Charlotte/Douglas on the amount of traffic coming through there related to market,” said Smothers, who previously served on the Market Authority board of directors.
If the worst-case state funding scenario comes to pass, the Market Authority would face either cutting transportation services and marketing of the trade show or finding new revenue sources.
Operators of High Point Market showrooms already pay $1.5 million annually through a special showroom license tax. The city of High Point contributes $1 million each year to the Market Authority.
Smothers said that one option for filling a state funding gap would be contributions from regional governments that benefit from market or cities such as Charlotte or those around Raleigh-Durham International Airport that reap rewards from market travelers. Right now the only government support outside of High Point comes from $75,000 contributed by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, according to the Market Authority’s budget.
The Market Authority has received $17.6 million in total state funding during the past seven years, according to information through the office of Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford. State funding for the market began in 2006.
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• The High Point Market is the single-largest economic event each year in North Carolina, with an annual economic impact of more than $1 billion.
• More than 13,000 jobs are created directly through the trade show, held each spring and fall. More than 69,000 jobs locally have some direct or indirect tie to the High Point Market and home furnishings employers in the area.
• Tax revenue — created by the more than 70,000 people who come to each market and properties owed by furniture companies — total $19 million annually. The largest showroom owner at market, International Market Centers, is by far the largest single taxpayer in High Point.
Sources: High Point Market Authority; UNCG economic researcher Andrew Brod; High Point Economic Development Corp.