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The Furniture Mart and World Market Center are holding a grand opening in downtown Las Vegas. Though High Point, North Carolina, has long been regarded as the 'furniture capital of the world,' some think the new Las Vegas center could pose a threat. From North Carolina Public Radio, Leoneda Inge reports on how the furniture industry there views the Las Vegas competition.
INGE: THERE WERE RUMBLINGS FROM THE WEST COAST ABOUT FIVE YEARS AGO THAT LAS VEGAS - THE TRADE SHOW CAPITAL - WANTED TO GET IN ON THE FURNITURE ACT. AND MANY INDUSTRY ANALYSTS REGARDED THAT TALK AS JUST - WELL, A RUMBLE. BUT THE CITY OF GLITZ AND GAMBLING IS HAVING THE LAST WORD. DAVE PALMER IS GENERAL MANAGER OF THE NEW WORLD MARKET CENTER IN LAS VEGAS.
PALMER: To see everybody moving in, doing their magic in their showrooms and everything it is just marvelous to see. It's like an orchestra tuning up...you can hear it, you know. It's very exciting.
INGE: PALMER SAYS THEY HAVE NO INTENTION OF COMPETING WITH THE HIGH POINT HOME FURNISHINGS MARKET.
PALMER: High Point is the Super Bowl of markets. And we're not looking to compete with that. That has developed over decades. To try and duplicate that would be a huge mistake.
INGE: BUT PALMER SAYS THE LAS VEGAS SHOW HAS TAKEN ON A LIFE OF ITS OWN.
PALMER: Rather what we're trying to do is listen to the furniture and decorative accessory industry and related furnishings to what they want to do in our buildings. We do have the ability to grow it to however they want that to look.
INGE: SO FAR THERE'S ONE MAIN FURNITURE SHOW-PLACE BUILDING IN LAS VEGAS. SEVEN MORE BUILDINGS ARE PLANNED FOR THE SITE. AND THE CITY OF LAS VEGAS HAS OFFERED INCENTIVES TO MAKE ALL THIS HAPPEN. ANDREW BROD IS DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC RESEARCH AT THE U-N-C-GREENSBORO BUSINESS SCHOOL. BROD SAYS HE THINKS THE FOLKS IN HIGH POINT SHOULD BE "SENSIBLY CONCERNED" ABOUT THE POTENTIAL THREAT OF A LAS VEGAS MARKET.
BROD: The laughter of a couple of years ago was because there have been a number of attempts to mount challenges to High Points pre-eminence in furniture exhibitions. Cities like Dallas and others. And none of them never really worked.
INGE: UNTIL NOW. BROD SAYS IF THERE WERE A "COOL" CONTEST...LAS VEGAS WOULD WIN. AND IT HAS OTHER MAJOR ASSETS.
BROD: Which is a substantial advantage over many cities in terms of entertainment infrastructure - hotel rooms and transportation and so on.
INGE: THERE ARE EASILY 140-THOUSAND HOTEL ROOMS IN DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS AND ALONG THE STRIP. BUYERS, RETAILERS AND VISITORS TO THE HIGH POINT MARKET RENT HOUSES AND STAY IN HOTELS AS AFAR AWAY AS GREENSBORO. TAMMY COVINGTON IS DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS FOR THE HOME FURNISHINGS MARKET AUTHORITY IN HIGH POINT. COVINGTON SAYS SHE'LL BE IN LAS VEGAS THIS WEEK TO CHECK OUT THE NEW SHOW.
COVINGTON: We are the largest home furnishings trade show in the world and we are an international show. Right now, Vegas is a regional show. But I don't think you ever take competition lightly. You always need to know what's going on and we keep our eye to the west.
INGE: COVINGTON AND OTHERS HAVE SAID ONE ADVANTAGE TO DOING BUSINESS IN HIGH POINT IS THAT THERE ARE FEW DISTRACTIONS - COMPARED TO THE BIG LIGHTS OF SIN CITY. COVINGTON SAYS THE HIGH POINT EVENT IS A HARD-WORKING TRADE SHOW - AND ATTENDEES' LIVLIHOOD IS BASED ON HOW HARD THEY WORK DURING THE WEEK-LONG SHOW.
COVINGTON: If you're down here, you see them at the end of the day, they're tired, they've got their shoes in hand, sometimes. They're ready to just go back and crash.
INGE: BUT THE WORLD MARKET CENTER'S DAVE PALMER SAYS HE'S SURE JUST AS MUCH WORK WILL GET DONE IN LAS VEGAS - EVEN IF THE BUYERS TAKE SOME TIME TO HEAD TO CIRQUE DU SOLEIL OR THE BLACK JACK TABLE.
PALMER: A buyer, a serious buyer can't help themselves...they love to get out there and see what's new and fill in the holes in their line up and see what things will work in their ads and make it work for their stores...are they going to go out and play at night? Yeah! They do that in High Point too.
INGE: THE LAS VEGAS FURNITURE MARKET RUNS THROUGH FRIDAY. AND REGISTRATION JUST STARTED FOR THE OCTOBER MARKET IN HIGH POINT.
FOR NEWS 88-9 KNPR, I'M LEONEDA INGE IN HIGH POINT NORTH CAROLINA