HIGH POINT, N.C. -- High Point certainly earned its nickname, “Furniture Capital of the World.”
After World War II, roughly 60 percent of all the furniture made in America was made either in High Point or within 150 miles of it. That’s a lot of furniture.
Rumor had it, most of those jobs left beginning in the 1990s. And it’s true that there are fewer than half the peak number of jobs that the area had in 1992, which was about 65,000. Some of those did go overseas, some were lost to automation.
But Tom Carrigan is quick say, “There is pride in the worker that is here.”
The key word is, “here,” as still in High Point.
Carrigan is with High Point Furniture Industries, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary of making furniture in High Point.
They are a bit smaller than their peak in the 1980s, of between 300 and 400 employees, but are still about half that number. But the key is, they could be more and that ties both the local production and automation stories together.
Much of the commercial furniture HPFI makes has a custom feature or some other skill required that is beyond what a fast-moving assembly line can produce – things that require skilled upholsterers.
“This is not something you can automate,” says Jerry Samet, whose father, Harry, helped found the business in 1958.
If he had more skilled upholsterers, “It would be easier to expand and respond to some of the things that we see as opportunities to grow out there,” says Samet.
Carrigan puts it much more directly.
“I'm certain that we could expand our production,” he says.
See the simple product the company began with all those years ago and what kind of work those skilled upholsterers do in this edition of the Buckley Report.