Local Politics

Many in ailing NC furniture industry couch support for Trump in economic terms

Posted October 27

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— As the doors closed Thursday on the High Point Furniture Market, streets took on the appearance of a citywide moving day.

The market, which comes to High Point twice a year, is the largest home furnishings trade show in the world, pumping more than $5 billion into the state economy. But the furniture industry, which has furnished jobs in the North Carolina Piedmont for generations, has suffered some bangs and scratches in recent years.

Tens of thousands of furniture jobs in North Carolina have packed up since the 1990s, with most shifting to China.

Brian Honeycutt, who works for Our House Designs in Hickory, said labor is cheaper in China, but the quality of the furniture is much lower.

"When you have to return a lot of stuff in bulk order, you've just lost that money, really, when you have to ship it to China and back," Honeycutt said.

Main Street, NC Voters sound off along Main Street in NC

A 35-year veteran of the furniture industry, he sighs when he thinks about the upcoming election and its potential impact on the U.S. economy.

"The election, well, the election concerns me. I'm just hoping we can come out on the upside," he said. "I hope that, if Trump gets in, I hope it will help our economy, but there's no guarantee from either one of them."

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, has railed against the decades-long moving day for American jobs headed overseas and has vowed to renegotiate trade deals to make them more favorable for the U.S. and to impose taxes on companies trying to sell goods back into the country after moving operations out.

Meanwhile, Democrat Hillary Clinton wants to invest in infrastructure and technology industries to create jobs and revive the nation's economy.

High Point native Francel Goude, the artistic director at Platinum Decor, used to own his own furniture business before he shifted operations overseas.

"I had about 150 employees, and as I moved things to China, we ended up with 24 people, and it wasn't the same business," Goude said.

"I hated it," he said of sending production to China. "Then, to find work for the people I was hiring, you just sit there and say, 'Am I going to be here in 10 years?'"

Goude said a Trump win would "more pressure on him to be better at business-applied principles for America."

Tim Vaughn, who retired from a career in furniture, said he likes Trump's push for reworked trade deals, saying agreements have been bad for North Carolina.

"I think he would do a better job with the economy because he is a businessman," Vaughn said.

Nhial Agok, 25, who emigrated from Sudan as a child, represents a new generation in search of a new economy. The Furniture Market is the only time many people in High Point work, he said.

"That's the only time people make money. When the Furniture Market leaves, there's no jobs. People go back to looking, looking," Agok said.

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