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Made in America pavilion doubles exhibition size

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HIGH POINT, N.C. --  Out of the 2,000 exhibitors at the 2012 Spring Furniture Market, at least 45 are marketing products that are exclusively Made In the USA.

Those companies are showing off the domestically made furniture and accessories in the "Made In America Pavilion" on the top floor of Market Square Suites on Commerce Avenue.

The showroom for American-made products was first opened in the fall 2011 Market and has doubled in size for this Market. The companies showing their goods here said the economy's dictating that more and more furniture be made in the U.S. using American labor.

Kathy Walker and her husband own Cody Road Workshops. She said Americans are wanting to buy quality, American-made furniture--and they're making it loud and clear.

"We're getting buyers who were content for years to buy imports," Walker said.

For the past half-century, furniture companies have been increasingly importing goods from overseas, and the furniture manufacturing that propped up North Carolina's economy has dwindled to a trickle.

The Made in America Pavilion shows a reversal in that trend. That's why Market Square's director of leasing, Rhonda Jackson, said this showroom has doubled in size.

"We've brought in at least a dozen companies that have not been to market at all--or not in five-plus years," Jackson said.

Companies are showcasing all kinds of domestically produced furniture and accessories--from the traditional tables, chairs, shelves and other case goods to the eccentric art like the metalwork menagerie created from scrap metal by Utah artist Fred Conlon and his company Sugarpost.

"It is all green, and we're really proud of it because it's all salvaged material," Sugarpost spokesperson Debbie Cummins says. "Many of these things can be creations from a bucket that's just dumped on the table."

This is a showroom that showcases the virtues of domestic production.

Kathy Walker and her husband have skipped High Point Market for years because she couldn't justify leasing her own showroom space. She decided to make the four-hour trek from Georgia this year specifically because of the Made in the USA pavilion.

She said just having a random spot in the middle of 2,000 other vendors in 10 million square feet of space wouldn't benefit her small, family company. But being on display among a group of similar vendors within 20,000 square feet is a major plus.

"The buyers who want Made in America products will come to this floor because of the promotion for it," Walker said.

And the demand for her sophisticated yet country furniture is on the rise.

"Buyer after buyer came in and said, 'This is exactly what we need.' Though, I will say the buyer still wants our product at import pricing," Walker said. "They are not willing to pay us more for Made in America."

She said that may never change, but people will pay more for service that comes with something that doesn't have to be shipped halfway around the world.

"If there's a problem, you can get us on the phone and we won't tell you it's stuck in a shipping container somewhere," Walker said.

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