NC Furniture Manufacturing
Photos depicting furniture manufacturing in North Carolina just before and during the rise of the industry in the state in the 1940s.

North Carolina was known until very recently as the "Furniture Capital of the World." Access to raw supplies and inexpensive labor propelled the growth of the furniture industry in North Carolina at the turn of the last century. In 1911, the Southern Furniture Manufacturers' Association was founded with headquarters in High Point, NC, "to promote harmony among manufacturers of furniture, secure concessions in freight rates... and further the interests of its members."
The annual and then semi-annual furniture markets in High Point helped propel the state to its leadership role in furniture making.

The end of World War II brought the greatest demand for furniture that
the country had ever experienced. Home building increased by 300% and
new furniture was needed throughout the nation. This fantastic demand
for furniture was primarily answered by the North Carolina manufacturers.

The 1980s marked the "golden era" of the North Carolina furniture industry, when employment peaked at 90,000 people and the state added nearly 200 new furniture companies to its ranks. However, the boom did not continue. Trouble began in the 1990s with the globalization of the industry and an increase in free trade, resulting in competition from foreign furniture corporations and necessary cost-cutting measures from U.S. firms. The outsourcing of production services to Latin American and Asian countries led to a large decrease in furniture production and employment in North Carolina. China became the North Carolina furniture industry's most effective competitor, producing furniture of equal quality that was available to consumers at a lower price.

North Carolina saw the closing of 47 furniture companies during the 1990s, and the negative trend continued after 2000 with dozens of additional company closings. By 2006 it remained unclear how far the industry would fall before stability was reached, although some believed North Carolina's increasing affluence and urbanization would eventually reverse the economic hardships the industry had experienced.

See uncpress.unc.edu/nc_encyclopedia/furniture.html for more information on the furniture industry in North Carolina.
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