Right now, a lot of presidential candidates are asking for money – but they’re not the only ones seeking funds this summer: High Point Market Authority President Tom Conley just used a chance to speak before the county’s elected leaders to make a plea for more local funding of the High Point furniture market.
He said Guilford County and the cities of Greensboro and High Point all needed to show the market the kind of financial support it deserves, and he argued that the market has been getting short shrift in that regard for years.
Conley made his big ask on Thursday, June 27, when he spoke before many of the area’s elected leaders at the first ever Guilford County Economic Development Summit in Colfax.
“The key to economic development is bringing money from outside the area so there is a net gain in income,” he told the group at the Donald W. Cameron Campus of Guilford Technical Community College.
He said that, currently in High Point, there are only two real annual economic development drivers that do that: High Point University, which brings in visiting parents, and the High Point furniture market, which attracts people from all over the world.
Conley said it was frankly a mystery to him how some leaders in Guilford County still don’t see the critical importance of the furniture market as a key annual economic driver of the local economy. He said that, at times, this area’s leaders seem focused on the latest “new shiny thing” in economic development rather than on the market, which, he added, has proven itself to be a major driver of the economy for years.
Conley said the furniture market generates $6.7 billion in “total economic impact” and it adds $202 million each year to state and local tax revenues. He said that, despite that, the market has trouble keeping its “rainy day” fund at adequate levels and also has difficulty funding needed enhancements to the market.
“I sound a little angry and I’m not – I’m not angry at all,” he said, sounding a little angry. “But we are here today to ask for the funds necessary to meet the many challenges our market faces.”
He said market funding by the City of High Point needed to remain at least at current levels and added that the market should have a “more equitable distribution” of the Guilford County’s hotel and motel tax dollars.
He also asked that Guilford County increase the funding it provides. Just two weeks ago, Guilford County commissioners voted to hike the county’s contribution from $75,000 to $125,000 in the 2019-2020, budget; however, the furniture market had requested $200,000.
Conley also said a furniture showroom tax should be increased to provide additional new revenue for the market.