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Cindy Hodnett

State funding cuts would hurt market

Cindy HodnettCindy Hodnett
When the NCAA basketball tournament sweeps us up in March Madness every year, millions of dollars are funneled into local colleges, communities and businesses. Whether via hotels, restaurants or team memorabilia, greenbacks surge along with the enthusiasm of sports fans during the tournament and the economic benefits last far beyond the final score.
     The High Point Market is another financial heavy hitter that significantly impacts economies at the local, state, national and international levels. During a recent program at High Point University with North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, Bob Maricich, president of International Market Centers - the largest High Point Market showroom operator - said that the market has a $1 billion impact each year, the equivalent of two Super Bowls.
     More than 13,000 jobs are created for the market every year, according the High Point Market Authority. Officials also say that in excess of 170,000 people from 106 countries come to shop furniture and accessories during the twice-a-year market.
     The state of North Carolina has supported the High Point Market with a $1 million allocation for transportation and about $650,000 for marketing each year. The market's regional transportation system provides more than 331,000 rides annually. Seven cities, three airports and 70 vehicles are included in the mix, and the services are a valuable attraction for market guests, offsetting cab rides that can cost as much as $160 one way depending on the arrival airport destination. But those services might be altered in the near future.
     In McCrory's proposed budget released two weeks ago, the High Point Market could lose as much as half of its state funding. About $55,000 in cuts from the marketing component could go into effect as early as July 1, but the big cuts would come in the fiscal year starting July 1, 2014, when the budget would cut the Market Authority's total appropriation from today's $1.65 million to $800,000.
     The negative effects of drastic cuts could ripple through many industries. According to Market Authority officials, more than 69,000 local jobs exist due to the market and home furnishings industry.
     Additionally, three of the four top taxpayers in High Point are market buildings, with a fourth building in the top 20. Estimates for investments in showroom construction and upfit have been as much as $10 million, and with 2,000 exhibitors, 11.5 million square feet of exhibit space and a $1.4 billion economic impact, the High Point Market is a key contributor to North Carolina's financial health.
     If McCrory's budget proposal is adopted, the Market Authority would face the prospect of decreasing transportation services at a time when the furniture industry is rebounding from the recession and poised for growth.

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