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Experts See Turnaround in Mississippi’s Furniture Industry

By Sandra Knispel | Published 20 Aug 2012 09:52am | comments
The Tupelo Furniture Market Celebrates its Silver Anniversary. Photo: Mary Helen Bobo

The furniture industry is slowly turning around. That after roughly a decade of turmoil, plant closures and huge job losses. MPB’s Sandra Knispel has more from the Tupelo Furniture Market, which celebrates its 25th anniversary.

[Nat sound opening ceremony with applause]

The Mississippi furniture industry peaked around 1999 with roughly 42,000 jobs statewide. Today it’s roughly 18,000 fewer than that, but experts say the jobs are slowly coming back. David Rumbarger is the president and CEO of the Tupelo-based Community Development Foundation.

“Today we have about 23,000 – 24,000 jobs statewide, but it’s actually growing about 1 or 2 percent a year. So, we’ve reversed the trend of negative jobs and we’re actually adding jobs back.”

Remember when outsourcing meant furniture jobs moved overseas, largely to Mexico and China? But now industry experts are seeing a trend reversal, commonly referred to as “reshoring", which is industry speak for bringing jobs back home.

“China’s middle class is growing rapidly, wages are going up dramatically, manufacturing is coming back here. They’d rather buy American furniture than Chinese furniture,” says Ed Meek.

While Dr. Ed Meek, one of the original founders of the Tupelo Furniture Market, is no longer involved in the business, the eternal entrepreneur predicts an industry resurgence:

“I think this market is going to take off again, because people are leaving Mexico, people are leaving China and the American brand is more valuable worldwide  than it’s ever been. So, I think it’s a tremendous opportunity. We’ll see this grow again.”

If the number of exhibitors at the Tupelo Furniture Market is any indication then the industry seems poised for a recovery, even if it’s a slow one. This year, the number of vendors with more than 500 is one of the highest in the last decade.

Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Tupelo.

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The Tupelo Furniture Market Celebrates its Silver Anniversary. Photo: Mary Helen Bobo


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