Council to consider incentives for furniture company

Sep. 13, 2013 @ 05:38 PM

A request that the City Council is scheduled to hear Monday involving economic incentives is somewhat unusual, in two respects.
The fact that it involves a furniture manufacturer looking to expand is news in and of itself for a region that lost 13,000 furniture jobs over the past 15 years.
But it’s perhaps more noteworthy that the project is being targeted for a part of south High Point where industrial expansions are few and far between.
BuzziSpace, a Belgian company that designs and manufactures furniture and acoustical treatments, is considering establishing its U.S. manufacturing operations in the 100-year-old Pickett Cotton Mill building at 1200 Redding Drive, which has been vacant for seven years.
If the company chooses High Point over the two out-of-state locations also in the running for the project, it would plan to hire 113 people and invest about $1.6 million, according to the city.
“Anything that’s going to revive the manufacturing sector instead of packing up jobs and moving them offshore, of course I’m front and center behind,” said City Councilman Britt Moore. “It would be such a boost.”
The Pickett Cotton Mill was home to Claude Gable Co., a furniture manufacturer, until it closed down in 2006.
County tax records show the 105,000-square-foot building is delinquent on property taxes for the past two years, owing $35,683.13. It’s located in southwest High Point, where many furniture and textile companies once thrived but now sit abandoned.
“It’s the old heart of our economic engine, going back 30, 40, 50, 60 years ago,” Moore said.
The council will consider authorizing up to $162,000 in economic incentives for the project. The Guilford County Board of Commissioners will consider authorizing up to $113,000 in incentives for the company at a public hearing scheduled for Thursday. The state also may provide assistance.
The new jobs would be added over five years and would have an average wage of approximately $41,011.
The project provides a glimmer of hope among the bad news that hit the furniture industry this week, when Furniture Brands International, parent company of iconic brands like Thomasville, Broyhill and Drexel-Heritage, filed for bankruptcy.
Those companies moved most of their furniture production offshore years ago. Experts said the bankruptcy may illustrate that outsourcing production to save on labor costs may not be as effective a business practice as some previously thought. Still, they don’t see projects like BuzziSpace portending a return to domestic manufacturing.
“I think there is a lot of talk in the industry about how there was some overreaching there — not every operation, not every line of furniture needed to be moved to Asia,” said UNCG Economist Andrew Brod. “We are always going to be one of the leading manufacturers in the world, but I don’t see a big movement, some sort of renaissance of American manufacturing.”