TUPELO – Mississippi furniture industry officials didn’t hear what they wanted to hear, but they did get a promise of support.
U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, a Democrat who represents the 1st District, met with more than 50 industry leaders Tuesday at the Tupelo Furniture Market.
Sponsored by the Mississippi Furniture Association, the meeting was called to see if Childers could provide any insight into whether federal stimulus money was available for the furniture industry.
The answer was no.
“Tax credits are probably the best thing they can do right now,” Childers said. “But I do know how important the furniture industry is to North Mississippi, and we can’t lose these jobs.”
Childers also said he would seek ways to ease the red tape and cost of Foreign-Trade Zone manufacturing authority for Mississippi furniture companies. Three Lee County companies have the status, which eliminates the tariff on a certain fabric. But the application process is tedious and expensive – and not for all manufacturers.
“I think we can work on the Foreign-Trade Zone,” he said.
Before going to the meeting, Childers took a tour of Lane Home Furnishings, where he praised the quality of the work and its workers.
Lane President Greg Roy said the 45-minute tour “helped open his eyes” to what the furniture industry does.
“We told him we just wanted a level playing field and what we’re looking for is any help that can be provided,” Roy said.
At the MFA meeting, Childers listened intently to furniture executives who talked about the cost of doing business and how U.S. policy often makes it hard to stay competitive.
Al Wiygul, president of Bauhaus USA, said over-regulation has cost manufacturers too much.
“The government needs to look at what it costs us; on the other hand, it also needs to look at what we can do to get people to buy furniture,” he said. “Tax credits are good, but we can’t untax ourselves to profitability.”
Childers said he will do what he can to support the industry.
“I’m willing to go to bat,” he said. “I want to see people working.”
Ken Pruett, president of the MFA, said he was disappointed to hear no stimulus money was available but was pleased to hear Childers give his support.
“We’ve got to find a way to help all sectors of the furniture industry, and I’m glad he was willing to listen to us,” Preutt said.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.