I’ve watched with interest the debate over HB 169, which would allocate $4 million for the International Home Furnishings Market in High Point. Last week Civitas named the bill one of the ‘Bad Bill of the Week,’ which drew the ire of N&R legislative beat reporter Mark Binker, which in turn drew a response from Civitas’ Brian Balfour.

The N&R’s Doug Clark (unposted) steps in with the proverbial cool head. Clark notes that a Triad politician would be crazy not to support the market, including Rep. John Blust —-he who hate municipal broadband:

Blust, who’s so tight with tax dollars he’s pushing a constitutional amendment to create a state spending cap, rejected the pork-barrel label. State funding recognizes the market’s “unique value and economic importance.”

Besides: “If your’re a legislator from this area, you’ve got to support the furniture market.”

Yet Clark notes the “debate is not taking place in a vacuum,” noting the major changes the market has and is undergoing, including the departure of market authority president Brian Casey. Such changes indeed pose challenges, Clark concedes.

Interesting that —from an outsider’s point of view —- Balfour does something we here in G’boro do all the time —question the economic impact of an event like the market:

This is based on the projections of “economic developers” coming up with a study detailing estimated economic impacts of the Market. I’ve seen these “economic impact” reports before. For instance, the Teapot Museum in Sparta and the Randy Parton Theatre both were projected by “economic developers” to have a wonderful positive economic impact. How’d they work out? These “studies” already have the assumption that any government-subsidized project generates economic growth cooked into the mix, so they will only ever result in positive numbers, the only question is how much.

Binker also references the similarity between the High Point Market and the Super Bowl – both big events bringing people into town and thus “boosting” the local economy. Detroit has hosted the Major League All-Star game, the NCAA Final Four, and the Super Bowl between 2005 and 2009. All major events projected by “economic developers” to bring major economic boosts to the local economy. How did that work out for Detroit?

Evidently it work out too good for Detroit.

I realize it’s a stretch to compare the furniture market to Raleigh’s Wide Open street festival, but Right Angles’ Donna Martinez notes a good point— some events run their course and have a certain lifespan. Perhaps this is true of the furniture market, which has had a pretty good run.