The thing about High Point

by YES! Staff

We’ve been talking about doing a High Point issue, devoted to the news, culture and happenings in the Furniture City, for years. Today we pulled the trigger.

Not that we don’t cover High Point — we send someone over when a situation merits our attention, and our arts and cultural coverage regularly includes stories that originate there.

But it is the only city of the Triad’s Big Three where we don’t maintain an office and a full-time reporter.

To our credit, we tried for years to include a regular High Point presence in our news section, but we found that there wasn’t enough support from the business community to sustain it.

In other words, nobody in High Point bought any ads to pay for the reporting.

That’s part of the High Point conundrum. The city has pockets of great wealth along with corridors of alarming poverty,  and a middle class that seems to be disappearing along with the fur- niture industry that put the place on the map. That’s what happens when a city falls from shared prosperity — and High Point is a microcosm of the entre country, which has seen manufacturing jobs disappear, businesses wither, incomes drop. High Point was to fur- niture what Detroit was to automobiles. And unfortunately, it still is.

High Point has pockets of great wealth along with corridors of alarming poverty, and a middle class that seems to be disappearing along with the furniture industry that put the place on the map.

It was the furniture  industry that gave the city its identity, the furniture industry that drove the economy and that developed the city’s central business district into the citadel of showrooms that exist, not for the people who live there, but for the benefit of the biannual influx of designers and salespeople who grace us with their dollars, fill the hotels and justify the existence of High Point’s finer restaurants.

Now it is the Furniture City in name only — manufacturing has largely moved overseas, leaving behind a workforce trained in an industry that no longer exists, one of the highest tax rates in the state, per-capita income below the state average and almost 20 percent of residents living below the poverty line.

High Point sometimes feels like the redheaded stepchild of the Triad, overshadowed by its glitzier, more populous and more prosperous neighbors. But taken on its own, High Point still has a lot to offer. Business seems to be moving forward — in the last three months Ralph Lauren added 900 jobs, NCO has added 700 for a call center and the Bank of North Carolina doubled its headquarters in the city. High Point University grows in size and prestige every year, and will be adding a new basketball arena soon. The city still holds the NC Shakespeare Festival; the High Point Theatre has amped up its booking; the Coltrane Jazz Festival holds great potential.

And there’s always Furniture Market.

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